Life in the Pressure Cooker: Evolution at the Bottom of the Ocean

Friday, February 17, 2012: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Room 211 (VCC West Building)
Life under high pressure is common, not an exception. Nearly 80 percent of life on Earth lives far beneath the ocean under high pressure. Although marine life has coped with shifts in temperature, oxygenation, and dissolved carbon dioxide throughout evolutionary history, hydrostatic pressure has remained rather constant. As such, most species can adapt somewhat to changes in other factors, even by adjusting their distribution ranges. Pressure is likely a significant factor in determining where, and to what degree, marine species are able to migrate in response to environmental change, such as climate warming. However, this is complicated by the fact that many species have a low tolerance to shifts in pressure, precisely because it has been so stable over millennia. To date, science has underestimated the role that the combined interactions of pressure, temperature, hypoxia, and pH have played in the evolution of marine life. This session will present new scientific evidence on the mechanisms by which marine species tolerate high pressures. The panel will discuss why and how pressure tolerance will likely determine whether some marine species can cope with climate change. Species that are able to seek refuge in deeper waters might be able to escape a handful of other factors, such as warming and acidification, which in the short term will be more pronounced in the shallow waters of a climate-stressed world.
Sven Thatje, University of Southampton
Sven Thatje, University of Southampton
Bruce Shillito, Université Pierre et Marie Curie
Life Under Pressure: Physiological Constraints to Life in the Deep Ocean
Lisa Levin, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Altered Ecology in the Deep Ocean: Bathymetric Responses to Climate Change
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