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Acid Trips Cone Snails

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Deadly cone snails are too clumsy to catch their prey when exposed to the levels of ocean acidification expected due to climate change, according to research published in Biology Letters (

The study reveals the impact that rising carbon dioxide levels could have on the ocean food chain. “We found the carbon dioxide made the cone snails hyperactive,” says lead author Dr Sue-Ann Watson of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. “But despite moving three times faster than normal they caught fewer prey. They meandered around instead of moving by stealth and sneaking up on their prey.”

Cone snails typically hide in the sand to surprise their enemy. They harpoon their prey using a powerful venom that can also be fatal to humans.

The scientists took cone snails from around Lizard Island, on the Great Barrier Reef, and put them into tanks with a popular cone snail delicacy – jumping snails – but only 10% of the cone snails under the influence of elevated CO2 managed to catch their dinner compared with 60% of those kept in tanks under normal conditions.

Ocean acidification occurs when the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, resulting in chemical changes as the pH of the water decreases. “We already...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.