Living forms that make the sea their homeland have developed over thousands of years to thrive in its depths. The Oceans conventionally were not all that harmful to live in.
What seems strange to us is the ability of fish, for example, to live five miles beneath the sea. “That environment’s not hostile to them—its like us being in our living rooms,” says Matthew Savoca, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, in Monterey.
For example, strange things happen every day in the life of an angle fish such as multiple male fish fused permanently to a female fish. This may be strange for us but perfectly normal for an angle fish.
Oceans change over time and those changes take place gradually and the lifeforms develope to thrive in it. “But humans hurt the [ocean] in a global way, whether through overfishing or plastics or whatever—and we do it very quickly,” Savoca says. “It’s a frequent, unabating, constant assault.”
Unfortunately, the evolution of animals is not able to keep up with the human-led change. Ocean hostility is rising because of plastic, unsustainable fishing, ocean acidification, and warming waters, among other things.
Animals with long lives like blue whales, take longer to adapt to the change. It could take 60,000 years for generations of these long-living species to begin to adapt to living with it, says Savoca.
Animals that reproduce frequently and have short lives, like small fish and plankton, adapt more rapidly. “Their species might be saved by evolution,” says Savoca.
Generally, animal species can be divided into two different types. The specialists called the apex predators, find it difficult to adapt to change. They are more focused lifeforms evolved to excel in a very specific environment but are terrible at adapting to change.
Then there are the generalists that are “jacks of all trades, master of none,” says Savoca. They can thrive in various environments and survive on a diverse diet. It’s easier for these species to adapt when they are faced with unpredictable circumstances.
Centuries of killing and cod fishing affect both species on the same level. This “slash and burn killing,” says Savoca, creates this rippling effect so great one may not be able to imagine.
“We whaled out 95 percent of whales in less than 100 years, which is the most rapid loss of biomass in history,” says Savoca. “Humans are such efficient killing machines that [we’re capable] of removing entire species from our planet in less than a century.”
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