Marine hotspots can move, says study


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Marine life ~hotspots migrate over time, a new study suggests.

Researchers have found that the movement of tectonic plates, as well as changes in climate, can affect an areas richness and diversity of marine life.

Using fossil records and genetic markers it is predicted that there have been at least three different marine hotspots in the last 50 million years.

The ~coral triangle , located between the Indian and West Pacific oceans, is known to be a current marine life hotspot " host to a diversity of habitats and species.

Studying fossil records, Willem Renema, who led an international team of scientists, found that the Mediterranean and Arabian seas were once just as diverse.

The movement of these hotspots could not be entirely explained by climate changes " however, when compared with geological changes, it was found that their occurrence did coincide with movements of the earth s tectonic plates.

Marine hotspots have moved across almost half the globe, with their timing and locations coinciding with major tectonic events, the study suggests.

As tectonic plates move, one can become submersed under another, which can create islands, mountains " and, in the process, a diversity of habitat. This increase in habitat diversity allows for an increase in biodiversity of species.

During this process, though, nearby terrain can normalise " leading to a decrease in habitat diversity, and causing species requiring diverse habitat to either move on or die.

It is hoped that this knowledge of how hotspots are formed and decline could aid conservation work.

For more information, see the paper: Renema, W., Bellwood, D.R., Braga, J.C., Bromfield, K., Hall, R., Johnson, K.G., Lunt, P., Meyer, C.P., McMonagle, L.B., Morley, R.J., O Dea, A., Todd, J.A., Wesselingh, F.P., Wilson, M.E.J., Pandolfi, J.M. 2008. ~Hopping Hotspots: Global Shifts in Marine Biodiversity. Science, vol. 321. pp. 654-657.