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Have you ever wondered what forces are responsible for directing ocean currents? The wind seems like the obvious answer, and when it comes to developing scientific models that help predict weather patterns based on ocean currents, wind is considered the primary factor. However, ocean currents may not be entirely directed by wind. According to chaos theory, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can hypothetically lead to a fierce tornado. This same theory seems to apply to tiny marine arthropods. The prevailing theory concerning the movement of ocean currents is that they are partially caused by the locomotion of tiny crustaceans. Researchers have now gathered evidence to suggest that swarms of small arthropod animals may generate enough force to influence the direction of ocean currents.

 

According to fluid mechanics engineer John Dabiri from Stanford University, the data concerning ocean currents is not always accurate because it does not factor in the activity of marine animals. The researchers experimented with two types of marine arthropods. One of these arthropods was brine shrimp and the other was a type of crustacean commonly referred to as a sea-monkey. During the daytime, these tiny arthropods swarm in huge numbers to the surface of the ocean in order to feed. At night, these arthropods rapidly swarm back down to the dark ocean depths. This means that every day there is a tremendous vertical migration of trillions of tiny arthropods in the ocean. These swarming arthropods collectively push the ocean water about with a force massive enough to generate currents. Researchers tested this theory by placing numerous brine shrimp into a large tank. The tank was outfitted with an artificial light to mimic daytime conditions. This light prompted the shrimp to swim to the water’s surface. The tanks were filled with small spherical objects in order to help the researchers visualize the currents produced when the shrimp migrated. The study found that even a small amount of brine shrimp can produce currents that reach every section of the tank, and not just localized regions. This test demonstrated the researcher’s theory as sound.

 

Do you think that shrimp and other forms of marine arthropods originated on earth before all terrestrial arthropods?

 

 

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