Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Rare shellfish discovery

11.07.2006
After an absence of a thousand years, mussels have suddenly turned up again on Svalbard. A sensational find, certainly – but not evidence of climate change.

The two Norwegian scientists could hardly believe their eyes on a dive on the far west of the coast of Spitzbergen in autumn 2004.

Right in front of NTNU Professor Geir Johnsen’s underwater camera a sensation was waiting for him: a colony of mussels had managed to attach itself to Sagaskjæret – the Saga Skerry – in Isfjorden.

Not since the early Middle Ages, when the climate enabled the Vikings to settle Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland, have mussels established themselves as far north as Svalbard.

For mussels to survive they need temperatures well above those that have been normal in Norwegian arctic waters for the past thousand years. These shells were at least a year old, which means that they had survived at least one winter on the skerry, a fact that impressed the scientists even more than the find itself.

Media sensation

The discovery soon found its way into the columns of the local weekly “Svalbardposten”, then to international web-sites and news agencies. Journalists tended to present the return of the mussels as evidence of global climate change.

According to biology professor Geir Johnsen, however, the find in itself has no such significance.

“If we had found mussels on Svalbard for ten years in a row, it would have been different,” he says. But in the summer of 2005 the scientists found no mussels on Sagaskjæret. It remains to be seen whether they will find any this year.

Changing sea temperatures

Johnsen and his colleagues at the Svalbard University Centre, the University of Tromsø and SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture published their theories about the mussel find last autumn.

Referring to satellite and oceanographic measurements, they concluded that the return of the shellfish is due to oscillations in the temperature of the sea, given that the North-Atlantic Current transported unusually large volumes of water northwards in 2002 and 2003 and that this led to higher than normal surface temperatures west of Svalbard. In the summer of 2004, the water turned colder again.

The oceanographic measurements also showed that warm, highly saline Atlantic water found its way into Isfjorden in 2002 and 2003. The water was driven into the fjord by high northerly winds – such warm water is another prerequisite for the growth of the shellfish on Sagaskjæret.

Migration route recreated

Transportation of larvae from the coast of Norway by the North Atlantic Current is the only possible solution to the mystery of where these mussels came from. In Trondheim, SINTEF’s Dag Slagstad was ready to help his colleagues with the aid of a mathematical model of the ocean. Slagstad carried out simulations that showed that in the summer of 2002, mussel larvae drifting from the Vesterålen area would have managed to reach Svalbard in 60 days as “hitchhikers” on the current.

“This is at the very limit of the time that the larvae would have needed before they had to attach themselves to rocks. But some of them have obviously survived the trip,” says Professor Johnsen, who points out that the rare find is yet more evidence that biology is a finely tuned instrument.

“This find shows just how rapidly biological changes can take place when the external environment changes.”

Aase Dragland | alfa
Further information:
http://www.sintef.no

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How fires are changing the tundra’s face
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Using drones to estimate crop damage by wild boars
12.12.2017 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Hot vibrating gases under the electron spotlight

12.12.2017 | Life Sciences

New silicon structure opens the gate to quantum computers

12.12.2017 | Information Technology

Using drones to estimate crop damage by wild boars

12.12.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>