ANCHORAGE, Alaska, May 1 (UPI) -- Scientists with NOAA Fisheries were recently able to breed and raise Artic cod in their laboratories. It's a breakthrough researchers say will help them better understand Arctic marine ecosystems and how they may respond to a warming climate.
Because cod are a vital species in the Arctic ecosystem -- an anchor to the food chains in those frigid waters -- researchers have been anxious to study the fish in a controlled setting.
"We're seeing limited temperature ranges for Arctic cod to successfully grow and survive," Benjamin Laurel, research fisheries biologist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, explained in a press release. "Arctic cod have relatively high growth at 0 degrees Celsius, but are rapidly outpaced by other Bering Sea species, including walleye pollock, and Pacific cod above 2.5 degrees Celsius." "The temperature tolerance for Arctic cod eggs is even narrower, where 5 degrees Celsius is the lethal limit compared to [greater than] 12 degrees Celsius for these other two species," Laurel added.
Healthy Arctic cod populations nourish the seabirds, ringed seals, narwhals, belugas and other fish that make up the Arctic's cold water ecosystems. Because of their importance to a balanced ecosystem, researcher refer to the fish as a "bellwether" species.
Scientists worry that vital biological communities could collapse if important species like the Arctic cod are pushed out by rising temperatures.
Researchers plan on conducting further experiments to study genetic, energetic and behavioral responses of Arctic cod to global warming.