Despite the current surge in research upon the aragonite shelled pteropods and their response to ocean acidification, the atlantid heteropods, which also have an aragonite shell (an unstable form of calcite) and live in the upper ocean, have barely been considered. This is largely due to a lack of baseline data on diversity and distribution, and a lack of identification skills. So, in pursuit to find out fundamental information about the atlantids I teamed up with Melanie Leng and Hilary Sloane in the Stable Isotope Facility at the BGS to answer the question ‘at what depth do atlantids live?’ Understanding the vertical distribution of planktonic gastropods is essential when considering the effects of imminent ocean acidification and climate change. It has long been hypothesised that the atlantid heteropods reside in the upper 250 m of the ocean, but this is a very broad definition of their habitat. Previous studies using opening and closing plankton nets have given us snippets of information about vertical distributions. However, these are often restricted to a small geographic region, or to only a few species. We took a different approach, using a combination of museum collections to look at broad distributions and migration patterns, and shell geochemistry, to pin point exactly where shells are calcified.
|The tiny sea elephant with its trunk is only a few mm across|
You can read more in our article published in Marine Ecology Progress Series http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v587/feature/
Debbie Wall-Palmer is a marine biologist and micropalaeontologist working on calcareous plankton at Naturalis Biodiversity Centre.