Sea slugs, jellyfish, and crabs are on the move. A new report finds they’re leaving toastier, more southern Pacific waters for Northern California. This relocation has scientists wondering what the effect of this marine migration will be.
University of California, Davis, researchers have identified 67 traveling species. They include a sea slug that preys on other sea slugs and a sea snail “butterfly” that usually flits off the coast of Mexico. Researchers published their findings yesterday.
Eric Sanford is lead author of the study. He says a warm patch in the Gulf of Alaska called the “warm-water Blob” began spreading south in 2014. Later, a weather event along the equator pushed warm water north. That’s when temperatures in Northern California waters—normally from 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit—increased 3.5 to 7 degrees. The change allowed some warmth-loving marine critters to creep northward.
Of 67 species researchers documented, 37 set new records in traveling north, including a purple-striped jellyfish that washed up about 70 miles north of San Francisco. Researchers also catalogued chocolate porcelain crabs, violet sea snails, and a sea slug called the Janolus Nudibranch—all natives of more southerly climes.
Imagine a powerful Creator who can “turn up the temp” on part of an ocean and move species from one place to another! Nothing is too difficult for God, for even “the king’s heart is . . . in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.” (Proverbs 21:1)
Researcher Sanford doesn't necessarily view the migration as negative. But he knows it will affect the area’s ecosystem. For example, one species of sea slug that eats other sea slugs has moved north—and appears to be settling into its new feeding ground. New predator, new prey. As Sanford says, “There’s potential for that species to change the community by eating other species.”
(A Janolus Nudibranch in Bodega Harbor, California. Jacqueline Sones via AP)