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Unusual Species Roundup

June 7, 2013

Rare species can have a surprising impact on ecosystems.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

The benefits of unusual organisms. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Rare species may be more important to the health of an ecosystem than common ones. Writing in the journal PLOS Biology, researchers found that rare species often have unique roles critical to the health of the ecosystem, like providing food sources when other sources are unavailable, or resilience during fires or drought. The work highlights the importance of biodiversity and the risks involved in losing fringe species.

In other news, the speed at which dead jellyfish sink could be a major factor in climate change. Ocean plankton absorb CO2 and jellyfish eat the plankton. New research has found that when they die, rather than decompose and release that carbon, they sink like stones, carrying most of it all the way to the sea floor. Without the fast-sinking jellyfish, we could be facing even higher levels of atmospheric carbon. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

White-spotted jellyfish, Haiti. (Nick Hobgood/Papa Lima Whiskey/Wikipedia)