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10th August 2015salps

We have all been pretty slammed with work over the busy July as it is always our busiest time of the year, what with everyone being on their summer holidays. So apologies for not keeping the latest news updated, just not enough hours in the day for me to do it but I’m back now.

This time of year we tend to get some small jelly fish looking things wash up on the beach which then as the tide starts to go out they are left behind and the sun cooks leaving the beach stinking.

They are not jellyfish at all but are called Salps, and unbelievably interesting and important they are…
Salps are part of a group called tunicates, members of this group have a kind of primitive backbone, which jellies lack and no stinging cells. The animals can also "give birth" to long chains of clones, and recent research finds that they may actually be a weapon against global warming.

Part of their life cycle involves asexual budding, where one salp creates a chain of hermaphroditic clones that stay connected, (imagine that, what shall I be today? male? Female? Na lets be both!!!) The chains in some species can get up to 15 meters long. Sometimes, the salp chain comes out in shapes; one species creates a wheel of salps, while another species organizes its chains into a double helix.

Eventually, the salp chains break apart. All the individuals that are released turn into females containing one egg. Males from a previous generation of salps will fertilize the females, producing an embryo. The "mother" then develops testes and goes on to fertilize the eggs of other nearby salps, all while the embryo continues to grow inside of it. That embryo eventually pops out and grows up to create another chain of clones.
Salps' cloning tendencies also let them take advantage of algae blooms. The animals gorge themselves on the algae and pump out chains of salp babies. All that eating also produces large fecal pellets that sink rapidly, as much as a thousand meters a day.

This is a salp's secret weapon against climate change. The algae that they eat uses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to grow and we produce a lot of it! The salps then eat the algae and all that carbon. When the animals produce their pellets, that carbon sinks to the bottom of the ocean where it's essentially removed from the carbon cycle.

Essentially, salps repackage carbon into big pieces that sink very quickly into the ocean, it's natures unique way of trying to balance out how much CO2 is in the atmosphere.
So as stinky as they are and they feel like squishy crushed grapes when you walk on them after they have been washed up, these little critters are vital to our planet and seeing the swarms of them just goes to show how much we have polluted our planet.

 

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Read 402 times Last modified on Tuesday, 24 October 2017 08:24