Skip to navigationSkip to content

The incredible power of tiny crustaceans could help fight climate change

By Michael Tabb
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Some of the ocean’s tiniest creatures may be creating powerful jets of water that profoundly alter the Earth’s environment.

By studying brine shrimp that measure just a few millimeters long, researchers at Stanford University discovered that small sea creatures can produce shockingly large-scale effects when they move in groups.

Similar to sea creatures like krill, brine shrimp migrate to the surface for meals and then sink to deeper water to avoid predators. In order to swim upward, they have to produce strong jets of water that exert downward pressure.

Although brine shrimp don’t actually live in the ocean—they stick to lakes—similar animals like krill proliferate in all of the world’s largest bodies of water. And those animals’ parallel feeding patterns suggest their migrations may produce similar jets. Scientists still need to find evidence of these jets outside the lab. But if their hypothesis is correct, krill could be generating significant turbulence, so much in fact, that their churn could be mitigating climate change, by dragging carbon molecules from the ocean surface deep underwater.

Watch the video to see the shrimp in action, and learn why tiny creatures may be far more important than we realize.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.