科学美国人:Tsunami Sent Species on a Transoceanic Trip

60秒科学节目(SSS)是科学美国人网站的一套广播栏目,英文名称:Scientific American - 60 Second Science,节目内容以科学报道为主,节目仅一分钟的时间,主要对当今的科学技术新发展作以简明、通俗的介绍,对于科学的发展如何影响人们的生活环境、健康状况及科学技术,提供了大量简明易懂的阐释。

The massive earthquake that rocked Japan in March 2011 took thousands of lives. It sent tsunami waves more than a hundred feet high towards northern Japan, where they battered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant—and swallowed up whole swaths of coastline.

"Large amounts of villages and towns and cities washed into the ocean." Jim Carlton, a marine ecologist at Williams College. "Huge amounts of infrastructure, fisheries facilities, aquaculture. From children's toys, to fisheries baskets, to many vessels, buoys, containers, everything one can imagine."

Time and ocean currents have delivered hundreds of those objects to U.S. shores. Along with the stuff living in and on them: mussels, anemones, barnacles, crustaceans, worms—even a few fish, caught swimming in boats. Carlton and his team have now recovered more than 600 pieces of that debris, with the help of a huge network of scientists and citizen volunteers, and catalogued the hitchhiking Japanese species. The full manifest—289 species in all—is listed in a report in the journal Science. [James T. Carlton et al., Tsunami-driven rafting: Transoceanic species dispersal and implications for marine biogeography]

While it’s hard not to admire their tenacity, some of these transplants could pose a danger to local species: "It's really ecological roulette. It's really a matter of any number of species which have no prior history at all of becoming nuisance species, becoming invasive."

And as we clutter our coastlines with more and more development, and the ocean rips it away—as happened to Texas and Florida this month—Carlton says we can expect more of these ecological experiments, tsunami or not.

—Christopher Intagliata

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