Climate change makes baby sharks smaller, underfed, research shows
Climate change is making baby sharks, like this epaulette shark (Hemiscyllium ocellatum), smaller, undernourished and exhausted, a research team found.
This combination of satellite images provided by the National Hurricane Center shows 30 hurricanes which occurred during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Nature struck relentlessly in 2020 with record-breaking and deadly weather and climate related disasters. From the most named storms in the Atlantic with a record number of them intensifying rapidly to the largest area of the western U.S. states burned by wildfires, to killer floods in Asia and Africa and a hot, melting Arctic, 2020 was more than a disastrous year, it was a year of disasters. (National Hurricane Center via AP)
FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2020, file aerial photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, flooding is seen in Bikou township of Longnan city in northwestern China's Gansu Province. (Du Zheyu/Xinhua via AP, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2020, file photo, firefighters watch flames from the LNU Lightning Complex fires approach a home in the Berryessa Estates neighborhood of unincorporated Napa County, Calif. The blaze, the fifth largest in California history, forced thousands to flee and destroyed more than 1,000 homes and other structures. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 16, 2020, file photo, a rare lightning storm crackles over Mitchell's Cove in early morning in Santa Cruz, Calif. The severe storm system rolled through the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas in August, packing a combination of dry lightning and high winds that triggered wildfires throughout the region. (Shmuel Thaler/The Santa Cruz Sentinel via AP, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2020, file photo, Bradley Beard walks with a shovel through his daughter's destroyed trailer home, after searching in vain for the water shutoff valve for the property in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura, in Hackberry, La. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2020, file photo, a resident walking through a flooded street looks back at storm damage caused by Hurricane Eta in Planeta, Honduras. As Eta moved back over Caribbean waters, governments in Central America worked to tally the displaced and dead, and recover bodies from landslides and flooding that claimed dozens of lives from Guatemala to Panama. (AP Photo/Delmer Martinez, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2020, file photo is a destroyed home by the CZU August Lightning Complex fire in the Pineridge neighborhood of the Santa Cruz Mountains community of Bonny Doon near Santa Cruz, Calif. (Shmuel Thler/The Santa Cruz Sentinel via AP, File)
FILE - In this July 17, 2020, file photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, water flows out from sluiceways at the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River near Yichang in central China's Hubei Province. Engorged with heavy rains, China's mighty Yangtze River crested again in July, as destructive seasonal floods have grown in force since June. (Zheng Jiayu/Xinhua via AP, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2020, file photo, rescuers use an inflatable boat as they evacuate people from a flooded neighborhood in Neijiang in southwestern China's Sichuan Province. (Chinatopix via AP, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2020, file photo, a person walks on a boardwalk at the salt flats at Badwater Basin, in Death Valley National Park, Calif. Death Valley recorded a scorching 130 degrees (54.4 degrees Celsius) the day before. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 27, 2020, file photo, vehicles drive through a flooded road after heavy monsoon rains, in Karachi, Pakistan. Heavy monsoon rains lashed many parts of Pakistan as well the southern port city of Karachi, leaving flooding streets, damaging homes and displacing scores of people. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 26, 2020, file photo, a man carries goods as he wades through flooded street after heavy monsoon rains, in Karachi, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan, File)
Baby sharks are being born smaller, undernourished and exhausted as climate change warms the world’s oceans, researchers say.
Researchers examined the effects of warming temperatures on the growth, development and physiology of the Great Barrier Reef’s epaulette sharks off Australia, testing embryos and hatchlings in waters up to 31 degrees Celsius (87.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
The research team found that in warmer waters, shark embryos grew faster and used their yolk sac — their only source of food in this developmental stage — quicker.
The creatures hatched earlier, were born smaller and needed to feed straight away, but lacked energy, researchers from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University and the University of Massachusetts said Tuesday.
There are more than 500 types of shark living around the world, and the majority give birth to live young. Some shark species, like epaulette sharks, lay eggs, which are left unprotected and must be able to survive on their own for up to four months.
“The epaulette shark is known for its resilience to change, even to ocean acidification,” Jodie Rummer, co-author and associate professor at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, said in a statement. “So, if this species can’t cope with warming waters, then how will other, less tolerant species fare?”
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef, covering nearly 133,000 square miles, and is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 species of hard corals and dozens of other species.
The past decade has been the warmest on record for global ocean temperatures. By the end of the century, the Great Barrier Reef is likely to experience average summer temperatures close to or exceeding 31 degrees Celsius, researchers warn.
Photos: Climate disasters of 2020
2020 saw record Atlantic hurricanes and Western wildfires, devastating floods in Asia and Africa and a hot, melting Arctic. Here’s a look back: