A new study shows that some shark species may be able to cope with the rising salinity of Arctic waters that may come with rising temperatures.
The Arctic today is best known for its tundra and polar bear population, but it wasn't always like that. Roughly 53 to 38 million years ago during what is known as the Eocene epoch, the Arctic was more similar to a huge temperate forest with brackish water, home to a variety of animal life, including ancestors of tapirs, hippo-like creatures, crocodiles and giant tortoises. Much of what is known about the region during this period comes from well-documented terrestrial deposits. Marine records have been harder to come by.
A new study of shark teeth taken from a coastal Arctic Ocean site has expanded the understanding of Eocene marine life. Leading the study was Sora Kim, the T.C. Chamberlin Postdoctoral Fellow in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, in coordination with Jaelyn Eberle at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and their three co-authors. Their findings were published online June 30 by the journal Geology.
The Arctic is of special interest today because it is increasing in temperature at twice the global rate. According to Kim, past climate change in the Arctic can serve as a proxy to better understand our current climate change and aid future predictions. The Eocene epoch, she said, is like a "deep-time analogue for what's going to happen if we don't curb CO2 emissions today, and potentially what a runaway greenhouse effect looks like."
Before this study, marine records primarily came from deep-sea cores pulled from a central Arctic Ocean site, the Lomonosov Ridge. Kim and Eberle studied shark teeth from a new coastal site on Banks Island. This allowed them to better understand the changes in ocean water salinity across a broader geographic area during a time of elevated global temperatures. Shark teeth are one of the few available vertebrate mar
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University of Chicago