A school of kelp bass. A new database created by scientists from UCLA and other institutions covers about 70% of all animals that live in the California Current, off of the west coast of North America. Image: UCLA

A Genetic Library for Mega-Ecosystems in the Pacific Ocean

Jul 9, 2021 at 8:00am

Pranjal Mehar

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth’s oceanic divisions, covering almost one-third of the Earth’s surface. One very important ecosystem on Earth is the Pacific Ocean ecosystem. Because it’s so gigantic, many living things are part of the community in the Pacific Ocean ecosystem.

Recently, scientists have created a genetic library for mega-ecosystem in the Pacific Ocean. The new library will enable scientists, conservationists, fisheries, and wildlife managers to understand what is happening to species and ecosystems much faster than existing methods. It can also be used to distinguish hotspots where certain species should be better protected. It may help specialists better police the fishing industries for getting species that are unlawful to harvest.

The California Current extends nearly 2,000 miles from Canada’s Vancouver Island to the middle of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. It brings cold water from the North Pacific Ocean to the west coast of North America and is home to numerous and abundant species because of the upwelling of deep nutrient-rich waters. The current supports a large marine ecosystem that is home to species ranging from orcas to abalone.

This genetic library for mega-ecosystem is created by UCLA ecologist Paul Barber and colleagues from UCLA and three other institutions. They made the library of DNA barcodes that identify 605 species in the California Current. 275 of them had not been previously cataloged.

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