Newly discovered ocean plankton named after BBC Blue Planet
17 April 2018
A new species of ocean plankton, Syracosphaera azureaplaneta, has been named in honour of the critically acclaimed BBC Blue Planet series and its presenter Sir David Attenborough.
A new species of ocean plankton, Syracosphaera azureaplaneta, has been discovered and named by UCL researchers in honour of the critically acclaimed BBC Blue Planet series and its presenter Sir David Attenborough. Although measuring only thousandths of a millimetre, these plankton play a pivotal role in marine ecosystems as a crucial source of food for many ocean dwelling organisms. They are also incredibly valuable for studying the impact of climate change on ocean life now and across the previous 220 million years.
The plankton – called coccolithophores – are single cells surrounded by a calcite shell that varies drastically in shape across different species, acting as armour against predators.
“Although microscopic, the plankton are so abundant that they are visible from space as swirling blooms in the surface oceans, and form our most iconic rocks with their calcite forms making up the bulk of the white chalk cliffs and downs of southern England,” explained study co-author Professor Paul Bown.
It is the ability to produce this calcite shell that is being disrupted through ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is a symptom of climate change whereby rising atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean, increasing its acidity.
By studying fossilised plankton shells or ‘coccoliths’ in samples from drilling down deep into the ocean bed, scientists can map the impact of climate change and other global events over a very long period of time and use this to inform what might happen to in the future.
- Jeremy R. Young, Paul R. Bown, Lluisa Cros, Kyoko Hagino, Richard W. Jordan, ‘Syracosphaera azureaplaneta sp. nov. and revision of Syracosphaera corolla Lecal, 1966’ will be published in Journal of Nannoplankton Research, 38(1), 2018.
- Prof Paul Bown research profile
- The Nannotax Catalogue
- Plankton named after BBC Blue Planet series
- BBC News at Six coverage