Tiny crustaceans, a vital link in the marine food chain, could face a battle for survival as ocean acidity increases, researchers found during an expedition to the Arctic.
Scientists from the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, working alongside polar explorers as part of the Catlin Arctic Survey, camped on the Arctic ice to collect the novel data on the crustaceans, known as copepods.
Braving temperatures of -40C, they found that copepods that move large distances, migrating across a range of pH conditions, have a better chance of surviving.
The findings have been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr Ceri Lewis, from the University of Exeter, said: "Our study found that some marine animals may not be able to survive the impact of ocean acidification, particularly the early life stages. This unique insight into how marine life will respond to future changes in the oceans has implications that reach far beyond the Arctic regions."
Copepods are one of the most abundant marine animals and are a vital food source for a wide variety of other marine life. Until recently, it has been difficult to document what conditions they experience in the Arctic.