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The incredibly shrinking fish

Posting in Energy

Nemo will become even harder to find, as he gets smaller. You might want to look for him in the North Sea, because he's likely to flee toasty tropical waters.

Throw jeans in a hot wash, and they'll come out smaller. Why should creatures in a warming ocean be any different?

According to a story by the BBC, a new study predicts that global warming will shrink fish by up to 24 percent of their size. Unlike with Levi's, there's no pre-shrunk option. These fish are simply doomed to get smaller as their own rising body temperatures increase their demand for oxygen, of which there won't be enough to sustain their growth.

Okay, my comparison to red tab 501's is glib. Cotton clothing shrinks because the fiber tensions weaken and the fabric collapses, not because of oxygen deprivation.

Nevertheless, you get the point. Bad news for fish and fisheries in this new analysis by the University of British Columbia with a team of others, first published in Nature Climate Change.

Research had already suggested that global warming is threatening fish distribution and reproductive systems, and generally upsetting aquatic ecosystems. The latest finding compounds those problems. Smaller fish are less likely to reproduce, for instance.

The study modeled climate change between 2000 and 2050 using data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a joint effort by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Association. It forecasts fish will shrink between 14 percent and 24 percent in that time frame.

Another consequence of warming: Fish will move toward the poles. Tropical species will start to appear in places like the North Sea, according to the study. I guess you could call that the rinse cycle.

Image: Republic of Code

More fish tales on SmartPlanet:

— By on October 4, 2012, 8:14 PM PST

Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure