Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, researchers with the British Antarctic Survey along with British and U.S. colleagues report the shells of marine snails living in the seas around Antarctica are being dissolved by acidic ocean waters.
Ocean acidification is caused by the uptake into marine waters of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere emitted as a result of fossil fuel burning.
While laboratory experiments have suggested an effect of ocean acidification on marine organisms, the researchers said this is the first evidence of such impacts on live specimens in their natural environment.
"The corrosive properties of the water caused shells of live animals to be severely dissolved and this demonstrates how vulnerable pteropods [marine snails] are," researcher Nina Bednarsek said. "Ocean acidification, resulting from the addition of human-induced carbon dioxide, contributed to this dissolution."
The findings suggest the impact of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and food webs may be significant, the researchers said.