Climate Change, Nature, ocean

Cephalopod Populations Grow in Warming Oceans and Threaten Ecological Balance

Giant Australian Cuttlefish are one of the cephalopod species experiencing population growth due to an increase in ocean temperatures caused by global warming.
Giant Australian Cuttlefish are one of the cephalopod species experiencing population growth due to an increase in ocean temperatures caused by global warming. Photo: Eureka Alert | Scott Portelli, Wildlife Photographer.

By now, we’re all used to reading stories about how global climate change is harming life on Earth. This increase in temperature is a big problem for the world’s oceans.

Rising water temperatures are displacing species and leading to coral bleaching. It’s not all bad news. There are some creatures who are benefiting from climate change.

Cephalopods, which include octopi, squid, and cuttlefish, have been on the rise over the last sixty years. Although nobody is sure why this is happening, between 1953 and 2013, the population of 35 different species has been increasing.

Cephalopods grow quickly, they don’t live very long, and they are very sensitive to environmental change, making them quite adaptable. This explains their rapid expansion in numbers.

Whether warming oceans are entirely responsible is unknown, but it’s not likely to be that simple. Ecology is complex, and there are probably a number of factors at work in this population growth.

Another question is how this rise in population will impact other creatures that share ecosystems with these cephalopods. Cephalopods are voracious predators. Larger populations of them could devastate their prey species and related species before the new population reaches an ecological balance.

Cephalopods aren’t apex predators there are other creatures who prey on them. Their larger numbers might provide a surplus of prey for sharks and other creatures. Humans could be encouraged to harvest more of them without damaging their populations. Though making business decisions on something that might be a quirk can be risky.

More research needs to be done to understand this population shift. How strongly are these population growths tied to global temperature and human activity?

Will they continue to change in proportion to the global temperature, and how will efforts to reduce climate change impact them? Luckily scientists all over the world are investigating these issues.