The collaboration is part of a global program related to the adaptive capacity of certain organisms in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions.

Dr. Simon Morley, from British Antarctic Survey (BAS)

Daniela Jofré, IDEAL Center. The marine gastropods represent the most abundant class of mollusks in both the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions, where they play a fundamental role within the ecosystem’s relationships, due to their ability to feed on the nutrients on the seabed.

However, it is the gastropods’ ability to adhere to the substrate that reflects one of the key responses for understanding how they would be affected by climate change, since the loss or reduction of this ability could make them more vulnerable to predation or physical factors such as wave action. This collaboration is part of a broader program, related to the adaptation capacity of organisms in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions that may face this global phenomenon. This takes into account an increase in sea temperature and the reduction of salinity, in which the latter may lead to additional melting of glaciers.

The response to these factors is being studied in Punta Arenas by a group from the Research Center: Dynamics of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) of the Austral University of Chile (UACh), led by Dr. Jorge Navarro, in collaboration with Dr. Simon Morley, researcher at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The BAS is one of the most respected institutions in the world in the study of the impact of climate change on the marine organisms that inhabit the Antarctic territory.

The British researcher, together with the IDEAL Center’s research team, is undertaking a global comparison in this area, using studies previously carried out in places that include Singapore, Australia, Antarctica, and Las Cruces (Valparaíso Region). The studies consider how species of the nacella genus respond to changes in their ability to adhere to the substrate surfaces in the face of climate change scenarios.

“What we are trying to do is to assess how ocean animals will be affected by changing climate. Nacellas are very common and abundant animals and therefore represent a key food chain link for many other animals in these extreme-region ecosystems,” explained the British researcher.

Dr. Jorge Navarro, Dr. Camille Detree, Alejandro Navarro (IDEAL Center) and Dr. Simon Morley (BAS)

“The IDEAL Center provides all the logistic support, which includes collecting animals in several areas of the Magallanes region, and keeping these under controls for simulation of climate change effects, maintaining these species for study under controlled conditions, with separate tests using four to five temperatures simultaneously,” explained Dr. Jorge Navarro, principal investigator at IDEAL, who together with the postdoctoral student, Dr. Camille Detree and the research assistant, Alejandro Ortiz, are part of this scientific collaboration, which is already providing preliminary results.

“We found something unexpected and very interesting. The Nacella deaurata [a sea snail] species that lives in the ??Magallanes region responds very efficiently in its ability to adhere to the substrate at extreme temperatures of zero and one degree Celsius. Its natural range of temperature, to which it is exposed throughout the year, is between five and 11 degrees Celsius,” commented the British researcher, highlighting the adaptability of the species that live in the southern zone of Chile.

“With the studies that we are doing in the IDEAL Center, the knowledge concerning this group of species now complements prior knowledge from a wide range of geographical distribution, since this new information was missing for species in the sub-Antarctic zone. As a result, with the previous studies conducted by Dr. Morley, we can now say that there is information for several species of gastropods that live in the northern hemisphere, in tropical zones, and in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic regions, which provides a more global vision,” said Navarro. The current scientific collaboration with Dr. Morley which involves studies of the physiology, genetics and ecology of nacella gastropod species will conclude in February 2019.