Salps, at last (Triumph of Slime, part 2.5)

Salps, aside from being fun to say (seriously – try it a few times), are an odd bunch of creatures. They are free floating jelly-like creatures that filter water for nutrients therein, usually plankton and algae, and in one of their life stages, they can respond to sudden increases in food by asexually producing, and forming massive aggregates of small, gooey blobs.

Another fun fact about them is that they can sustain themselves on particles of food of a variety of sizes, most notably going down to under half a micron, which allows them to survive, and even thrive where other creatures cannot. This means that as overfishing and starvation begin (or rather continue) to remove the pressure of predation, salps will be able to proliferate across the seas, wherever there is enough nutrition to be found.

This also means that as algal blooms increase with warmer temperatures, and nutrient dumping from an increasing human population, salps will likely be there as well, blooming along with the algae, and feeding off the sludge we let run into the ocean. There may not be much else there, but at least we’ll have salps!

This may actually have positive implications, since (as the article also talking about size mentioned) they bind CO2 in their feces, which drifts to the ocean floor and stays there. This could mean that as the oceans empty of vertebrate life, salps may rise up and actually have somewhat of a dampening effect on atmospheric CO2 buildup by removing it from the surface waters, allowing more to be absorbed into the ocean. That doesn’t seem likely to be enough to reverse the warming trend, but every little bit helps. At least our seas will still be pulling some carbon out of the atmosphere as their average viscosity increases with the rise and triumph of slime.

NOTE: perspective is off - each individual is a couple inches long, not feet!

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2 responses to “Salps, at last (Triumph of Slime, part 2.5)

  1. Pingback: Getting back to the point | Oceanoxia

  2. Pingback: Corrosion in the Ocean: When coming out of your shell is a Bad Thing | Oceanoxia

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