Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Starting With the Oceans, Single-Celled Organisms Will Re-Inherit the Earth


I'll be the first to cop to being guilty of multi-celled chauvinism: Having complex cells with organelles, which form complex systems allowing you to breathe, achieve consciousness, play volleyball, etc, is pretty much as good as it gets. While we enjoy all these advantages now, though, single-celled, simple organisms are just biding their time. More readily adaptable than us multi-celled organisms, it's really a simple, single-celled world, and we're just passing through.

Case in point: the oceans. A team of German researchers just published a paper in the journal Global Change Biology that found that the more simple an organism is, the better off it's going to be as the oceans warm. Trout will die out, whales will fail, but unicellular bacteria and archaea (a type of microorganism) are going to flourish.

Animals can only develop and reproduce up to a temperature threshold in the water of about 41 degrees Celsius, or 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond this, the cardiovascular system can't deliver necessary oxygen throughout the body. Even as individual animal species can develop smaller bodies or generate more hemoglobin to survive in warmer and oxygen deficient water, the highly developed metabolic systems that allow for things like eyeballs can't get over the temperature threshold and the other hurdles it brings, like decreasing oxygen.

For the rest of the story:

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