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Alaska Beat

Will climate change shrink fish species?

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published September 30, 2012

Will miniature humuhumunukunukuapua'a – a fish native to the tropical waters of around the Hawaiian Islands – be swimming in the chilly Gulf of Alaska at some time in the distant future? It's possible as result of warming ocean temperatures, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

As oceans warm as a result of climate change, fish species will move closer to the Earth's poles, scientists from the university have concluded, the BBC News reported Sunday.

The researchers used climate modeling to foretell the impacts of a warming climate on marine species. Besides moving closer to the poles, scientists also concluded from the research that many fish species will also shrink. That's because oxygen levels will decrease in ocean waters as a result of warming temperatures, according to the models.

As ocean temperatures increase, so do the body temperatures of fish. But, according to lead author, Dr William Cheung, from the University of British Columbia, the level of oxygen in the water is key.

"Rising temperatures directly increase the metabolic rate of the fish's body function," he told BBC News.

"This leads to an increase in oxygen demand for normal body activities. So the fish will run out of oxygen for growth at a smaller body size."

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