Scientists have identified a sea Larvacean that uses its filtering technique to separate carbon particles from ocean water by trapping in its filter.
Usually, the carbon particles that float through oceans are eaten by other organisms, which keeps it floating through the food chain. An increase in oceans absorbing and holding carbon compounds like carbon dioxide will both heat the oceans and disrupt marine ecosystems, and lead to saturation.
The giant Larvacean (Bathochordaeus) is a 10-centimeter long tadpole-like creature, but the mucus it secretes can fan out around it by up to one meter.
The Larvacean has two filters — a coarse, external one that traps debris too big for the creature, and an internal filter that guides the food into the creature’s mouth.
These mucus filters also trapped large quantities of carbon, which floats through the oceans. Once this filter gets clogged, the giant Larvacean abandons this filter to the deep seafloor and moves on.
The Larvacean’s mucus filter traps a significant amount of carbon during its constant water filtration process, which goes through about 21 gallons an hour.
Mucus is ubiquitous in the ocean, and complex mucous structures are made by animals for feeding, health, and protection. Scientists now try to visualize its process in order to apply it to a real-life scenarios.
Though scientists believe that more research is necessary to understand how the Larvacean’s mucous membranes are built and inflated, they see tremendous potential in understanding and replicating the Larvacean’s carbon transporting process, in order to better assess and combat the impact of climate change.