SYDNEY – Mollusks with shells and sea snails that inhabit cold water build their shells smaller than its tropical-zone relatives to save energy, a study published on Thursday revealed.
A group of researchers from the Australian James Cook University collected samples of the marine animals over an area of 16,000 square kilometers (6,178 square miles) between the Arctic waters of Norway and the temperate waters of Singapore.
The study published in the magazine Science Advances revealed that calcified mollusks and marine snails use 10 percent less energy in growing their shells.
“Our research suggests that cold water marine mollusks, in places like Antarctica, had to work a bit harder to build their shells, using more of their available energy,” Sue-Anne Watson, an expert at James Cook University who led the study, said in a statement.
To build their shells from lime or calcium carbonate, marine animals need to get raw material from the ocean through a process known as biomineralization.
The availability of these resources depends on the temperature, which forces animals in colder areas to keep costs low and to maintain a more modest and affordable living space, according to Watson.
Scientists noted that the oceans’ acidification as a result of global warming can pose a significant problem for the availability of calcium carbonate that allows the construction of shells.
“We also explored the consequences of increased calcium carbonate cost on the animals’ housing budget,” Watson said in drawing a parallel between the availability of materials in these sea animals and human beings.