New research published today in Current Biology describes a species of gastropod (sea snail) which lives in very acidic water near a CO2 vent in the southwest Pacific near New Zealand.
This is the first instance of Sea snails growing in such acidic conditions, which is more than 30 times higher than normal seawater. Sea snails grow their shells through a process called calcification, which is sensitive to changes in acidity.
The snails were proven through a chemical marker, to have lived in the acidic water all their lives and have adapted to the conditions. Sea snails live not just in the vents, but outside in the surrounding water off New Zealand: the acidic adaptation exists in parallel with the normal population. The conditions actually increased sea snail abundance within the acidic water, as the increase in carbon from the CO2 led to an indirect effect of a higher algae biomass which is a food source of the sea snails.
The paper led by Prof Sean Connell, Dr Zoe Doubleday and Prof Ivan Nagelkerken provides the first example of sea snails living in extreme shallow conditions.
Watch Zoe Doubleday explain further below