Ecology

Carnegie Blows Up Biodiversity

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Science  08 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6039, pp. 137
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6039.137-a
CREDIT: COURTESY OF THE CARNEGIE INSTITUTION FOR SCIENCE

To assess the effects of anthropogenic changes on biodiversity, we need to know not only what exists but what existed, Dolan contends in an analysis of historic plankton samples collected on the final cruise of the ship Carnegie during 1928–1929. Built for oceanography, on its last global voyage it was equipped to systematically collect plankton. Plankton were obtained from 160 sampling stations. Three groups were chosen for identification and counting to represent distinct trophic levels: small copepod crustaceans, Ceratium dinoflagellate alga, and ciliate zooplankton called tintinnids. Reanalysis of these collections revealed that changes in species richness were correlated for the three groups, and more species were collected at the tropics than at high latitudes. Interestingly, of the several hundred species, most were rare and few were common. Although potentially a rich source of now-unfunded taxonomic expertise, historical data do have gaps and study design issues that cannot now be resolved. Sadly, the Carnegie's adventure came to an end when it, and its scientist, Captain Ault, were blown up while refueling in Samoa.

J. Plankton Res. 33, 10.1093/plankt/fbr060 (2011).

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