Octopus DNA Unravels Geological Mystery by Scientists’ Theories

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In an innovative study, scientists looked into the genetic past of Turquet’s octopus to shed light on the catastrophic collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

The study, published in the journal Science, suggests that the ice sheet’s most recent collapse occurred over 100,000 years ago during a period known as the Last Interglacial.

Lead study author Sally Lau, a postdoctoral research fellow at James Cook University in Australia, expressed excitement about the project, stating that it offers a new perspective to address a question that has puzzled the geoscience community for years. 

The key to unlocking this mystery lies in the DNA of the Turquet’s octopus, which acts as a time capsule containing information about its ancestors.

By sequencing the DNA of 96 Turquet’s octopuses collected from institutions worldwide and through fishing bycatch over the years, the research team created a detailed family tree spanning millions of years. 

The analysis revealed that the last collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet coincided with the Last Interglacial, providing crucial confirmation for geoscientists.

Unveiling Octopus Ancestry

octopus-dna-unravels-geological-mystery-in-accordance-with-scientists-theories
In an innovative study, scientists looked into the genetic past of Turquet’s octopus to shed light on the catastrophic collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

The study’s analogy likens the DNA analysis to a 23andMe for octopuses, highlighting the information passed down through generations. 

Populations of Turquet’s octopus in the Weddell, Amundsen, and Ross seas are currently separated by the vast West Antarctic ice shelves, preventing intermingling. However, the study indicates that genetic connectivity existed between these populations around 125,000 years ago during the Last Interglacial.

During this period, global temperatures were similar to today’s, and the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet would have inundated coastal regions while opening up ice-bound areas on the seafloor. This allowed Turquet’s octopus populations to encounter and breed with members that were once geographically isolated.

The West Antarctic ice sheet is a significant contributor to global sea level rise, and a complete collapse could raise sea levels by 3 to 5 meters. 

Jan Strugnell, a study author and professor at James Cook University, emphasized the importance of understanding the configuration of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet in the past to improve projections of future sea level rise. 

The study’s findings provide valuable insights into the complex interplay between genetic history, climate change, and the potential impacts on global sea levels.

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