Shark babies, aka Shark pups, are expected to come out earlier and weaker from their eggs due to rising temperatures of the ocean, says a new study. As of now, 40 percent of all shark species are said to be oviparous (give birth by laying eggs), and the research found that young ones of particular species of shark which is unique to the Great Barrier Reef may spend 25 days less in their eggs at the expected temperatures by the end of the century. This is because higher temperatures can cause them to feed on their yolks rapidly, and when born, the temperature again affects these weaker sharks.
Scientists say this could affect the balance of the ecosystem as Sarks tend to maintain a balanced environment by taking out the weaker ones. They also add that healthy coral reefs need healthy predators, and to test the health status of young sharks; scientists studied the growth of eggs under different temperatures.
The sharks under the study are Epaulette sharks that grow about a meter in length in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, and their eggs are leathery, which are known by some as ‘mermaid’s purse’. As said earlier, scientists study the growth of shark pups in their eggs by incubating them under two different temperatures. One group of eggs were reared under 27°C and other groups were either reared at 29°C or 31°C. Due to their translucent shells, scientists were able to see their growth and the rate at which they consumed the egg yolks. Warmer temperatures meant that yolks got consumed sooner and so the shark pups incubated at higher temperatures hatched 25 days sooner than the other group. Scientists say that this is a worrying sign as rising temperatures can cause more problems to sharks, and It is said that 20 percent of the shark population can become functionally extinct in the reefs.
Scientists say that problems like ocean acidification and falling oxygen levels do not pose a threat to these animals, but these temperatures seem to be a big problem. With given conditions, scientists predict there might be three outcomes to this; the first being the moving of sharks to cooler places were they suitable habitats. The second scenario being Sharks getting genetically adapted to the warmer climate, but it might take longer to have such an adaptation, and the last one being sharks disappearing from this planet. The team is now planning to study the effect of climate on pregnant females. But time will tell us more about these predators of the ocean.
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Source: The Guardian