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Travel to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts where scientists study the microscopic world of the pteropod, more commonly know as the sea butterfly. Nicknamed for the way it swims through the water, the sea butterfly propels itself with fins that protrude from its transparent shell and flap like a butterfly’s wings. Though no larger than a grain of sand, these otherworldly creatures are a staple in the diet of marine animals like the sea angel (seen above). But the world of the sea butterfly–and the predators that call it dinner–is in danger from the changing chemistry of our warming oceans. Increasing ocean acidification dissolves the pteropod’s shell, often killing the animal... and everything that eats it. Join Ari Daniel Shapiro as he delves into the delicate ecosystem of the sea butterfly.

  1. Why is the sea butterfly’s shell in danger?

  2. Why are scientists concerned with the fate of an organism that is invisible to the naked eye?

  3. Why does Cornelia Kavanagh create statues of the sea butterfly?

Noun

region at Earth's extreme north, encompassed by the Arctic Circle.

biologist
Noun

scientist who studies living organisms.

carbon dioxide
Noun

greenhouse gas produced by animals during respiration and used by plants during photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is also the byproduct of burning fossil fuels.

Noun

all related food chains in an ecosystem. Also called a food cycle.

luminesce
Verb

to emit light.

microorganism
Noun

very tiny living thing.

microscopic
Adjective

very small.

ocean acidification
Noun

decrease in the ocean's pH levels, caused primarily by increased carbon dioxide. Ocean acidification threatens corals and shellfish.

terrestrial
Adjective

having to do with the Earth or dry land.