Jumping snails leap over global warming

July 04, 2013

Snails in the Great Barrier Reef literally jump for their life to avoid predators. But will they be able to maintain these life-saving jumps, with rising sea temperatures? A new study, to be presented at the Society for Experimental Biology meeting in Valencia on July 5, shows that the snails will indeed be able to keep on jumping, even at temperatures which will kill fish.

The Great Barrier Reef humpbacked conch snail jumps when it senses the odour of its main predator, the marbled cone shell. Together with a team of researchers from the James Cook University, Dr Sjannie Lefevre and Prof Göran Nilsson at the University of Oslo in Norway looked for the first time at the effects of increased temperature on the ability of the snail to deliver oxygen to tissues during jumping provoked by the predator odour.

The researchers analysed resting and active jumping oxygen consumption rates in snails exposed to seawater at the normal temperature of 29 °C and at the increased temperature of 34 °C, projected to be reached during the next 100 years due to global warming.

Dr Sjannie Lefevre said: "We found that the snails increased their oxygen consumption 4-5 times during jumping. They were able to maintain this strong increase in oxygen uptake even when the seawater temperature was increased to 37 °C - a temperature at which coral reef fish cannot even survive for a short time."
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Society for Experimental Biology

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