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A new study has found that the tiny brine shrimps or the so-called sea monkeys may contribute largely in churning oceans as the winds and tides do.
According to the researchers, when these sea monkeys (which in real sense are not monkeys but a type of shrimp) swim to the ocean surface in one large, culminating force, they may end up contributing to as much power to ocean currents as the wind and tides exert on the water bodies.
Sea monkeys have received the playful last name of monkey as their tail resembles a monkey’s tail. It is better known as brine shrimp (Artemia salina).
According to the scientists, these small aquatic animals may contribute to about a trillion watts (or a terawatt) of power to the surrounding ocean waters, leading to churning of the large water bodies with the same power as that of the tides or strong winds.
A terawatt has the potential to light roughly 10 billion 100-watt light bulbs.
The swimming of a few brine shrimp in upward and downward direction may not have bigger influence on the ocean patterns but when these tiny creatures swarm together in multitudes, they generate strong currents that can affect the ocean’s circulation pattern across the globe, the researchers found.
For better understanding the collective power of brine shrimps, the researchers analysed their swimming behavior in a special aquarium equipped with lasers. The researchers said that they used laser lights for the experiment as brine shrimp tend to swim toward light.
During the study, they found that a blue laser enabled the shrimps to rise from the bottom to the top of the tank, triggering their upward migration.
Similarly, a green laser light installed in the middle of the tank kept the shrimps to form a group at the center. The complete experiment was a miniature form of the happenings in the ocean.
To measure the swarm’s communal current, the team poured silver-coated microscopic glass beads into the aquarium water and recorded the changing water direction with the help of a high-speed camera.
“The study strongly suggests a remarkable and previously unobserved two-way coupling between the biology and the physics of the ocean. The organisms in the ocean appear to have the capacity to influence their environment by their collective swimming,” said study investigator John Dabiri, an aeronautics and bioengineering professor at the California Institute of Technology.
Generally, the winds and tides are given credit for creating water currents that result into the mixing of the ocean’s salt, heat and nutrients. But this latest study has brought a new exposure in the study of oceans that suggests microscopic animals too influence currents.
The study’s findings were published online in the journal Physics of Fluids on Tuesday.