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Submission + - Migrating animals' pee affects ocean chemistry (washington.edu)

vinces99 writes: The largest migration on the planet is the movement of small animals from the surface of the open ocean, where they feed on plants under cover of darkness, to the sunless depths where they hide from predators during the day. University of Washington researchers have found that this regular migration helps shape our oceans. During the daylight hours below the surface the animals release ammonia, the equivalent of our urine, that turns out to play a significant role in marine chemistry, particularly in low-oxygen zones. Results are published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“I’m very fascinated by these massive migrations,” said lead author Daniele Bianchi, a postdoctoral researcher in the UW School of Oceanography. “To me, it’s exciting to think about the effects of animal behavior on a large scale in the ocean.”

One might not think that peeing into the vastness of the oceans could have an effect. But the animals – which include tiny zooplankton, crustaceans such as krill, and fish such as lanternfish up to a few inches long – compensate for their small size with huge abundance throughout the world’s oceans. After a nighttime feast near the surface, these small creatures take a couple of hours to swim about 650 to 2,000 feet (200 to 600 meters) deep. Solid waste falls as pellets. The liquid waste is emitted more gradually.

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Migrating animals' pee affects ocean chemistry

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