Fragile butterflies of the sea

Scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have been studying and documenting the lives of pteropods, swimming snails of the sea that play a critical role in ocean food webs. They’re delicate and beautiful animals, sometimes called “sea butterflies”, with interesting ways of finding food in the deep ocean. They’re also particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification, the change in chemistry that occurs as the ocean absorbs more of the rampant carbon dioxide produced when we burn fossil fuels.

Acidification is one of the most insidious ocean impacts of rampant carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels—one that threatens the integrity of food webs on which many ocean animals depend. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and many other researchers, are looking closely at the effects ocean acidification is having on pteropods. It’s an urgent issue, one of many reasons for the world to act to reduce carbon emissions.

MBARI has captured the beauty of deep sea pteropods in this video.