In his new book, Lost Antarctica, polar biologist Jim McClintock, Ph.D., offers plenty of reasons to be concerned about the fate of the frozen continent: a few trillion, at least.

That’s the approximate number of sea butterflies currently floating in the chilly waters of the Southern Ocean. The tiny, shelled creatures serve as the base for an intricate food chain that extends upward to the mighty blue whale. Hundreds of species depend on the sea butterfly, but it is under assault on a massive scale. Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, transferred to the polar oceans by complex climate effects and simple chemistry, are making the sea butterfly’s home waters more acidic.

Read more at the UAB Magazine.