Acidifying Oceans Could Corrode the Tooth-Like Scales on Shark Skin
by Katherine J. Wu/Smithsonianmag.com
Shark skin is seriously tough. Blanketing the surface of these fearsome fish are structures called denticles, which resemble scales but are actually modified teeth that comprise one of the zaniest suits of armor in the sea.
But scientists are now concerned that even durable denticles have met their match: ocean acidification. Under the influence of climate change, the pH of the world’s waters is dropping—and potentially corroding these spiky shark scales, according to a study published this week in Scientific Reports.
The wear on shark skin spells far more trouble than a dermatological annoyance. Linked together in tight formation, denticles act as a combination of chain mail and a wetsuit, protecting the sharks while streamlining their swim, study author Lutz Auerswald, a biologist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, tells Matt Simon at Wired. Like a mouthful of carbonated, sugary soda eating away at teeth, acidified waters may cause wear and tear on denticles in a way that impacts daily life.
Since pre-industrial times, ocean acidity has climbed by about 30 percent, writes University of Sheffield biologist Rory Cooper in The Conversation. A large part of this drop in pH (lower pH is more acidic) is attributable to the gobs ….Read More: