The reason for the corrosion is relatively unimportant beyond that it is "high tech" in origin, in contrast to the society in my setting (It could be a complex mix of industrial pollutants or plastic-eating bacteria gone out of control, I'm taking suggestions as well). For reference, the setting for this world is a primitive society (secretly the post apocalyptic remnants of humanity) living on floating islands over a shallow ocean. The ocean is a source of resources but also danger, and the corrosive property of the water emphasizes that.

As for how corrosive the water is, perhaps something like a human spending 5 minutes in the water is sufficient to result in 1st degree burns all over the body.

But as I said, all that is not the focus of the question. What I would like is some suggestions on how life would look like in this kind of ocean as I think I lack the biological and ecological knowledge to create a compelling depiction. This is perhaps 10000 years after the point where the oceans started turning corrosive, so not too much time for evolution to happen. I'm thinking the changes would be more in the relative distribution of different types of aquatic life rather than the forms of the species themselves.

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    $\begingroup$ When you say corrosive, do you mean low pH? Or high pH? I ask because one could look at existing environments on earth to get ideas and the two are pretty different. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Mar 7 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk The cause of corrosion is ambiguous, but functionally it should be more like acidic rather than alkaline. As you've noted, if it was simply an alkaline ocean, I wouldn't need to ask this question since there are many existing examples of alkaline aquatic ecosystems in real life. $\endgroup$ Mar 8 at 0:33
  • $\begingroup$ well i would bet theres two main possibilities: either the animals have barely changed at all, or mass extinction, depending on just how acidic or alkaline the water is $\endgroup$
    – zackit
    Mar 8 at 18:10

Short answer: there would be no or nearly no life in the oceans in your scenario.

Tech-related acidification of the oceans to the level you describe would kill everything in the water, and ten thousand years is nowhere near long enough (even if the acidification took all of that time) for life to adapt.

There's a small chance that some acid-loving bacteria might successfully migrate from hot springs or subsea geothermal vents, but in general those life forms are also dependent on the temperature of their home environment, and most of the ocean is barely above freezing (by the time you get down deep enough for darkness to set in -- say a hundred meters or so).

And without life in the oceans, the oxygen level in the atmosphere would start to drop, though this wouldn't be immediate enough to have killed everything in only ten thousand years -- I recall reading a figure of more like 90,000-100,000 years before the oxygen level drops enough to be unsurvivable, even if all green life on both land and sea died simultaneously.

Bottom line, though, a culture that depends on the sea for survival would be long dead before the sea reached the point of causing chemical burns in minutes.


So, essentially the sulphuric sea in calamity. Well, I'll try to answer this creatively, but as with all my answers, take this with a grain of salt. Now, what you're saying would result in a mass extinction of everything in the ocean, so lets just say that it was like that from the beginning.

Now, I imagine that extremophiles would be the first dominant life form, and it may be possible that they would not evolve further. If, by chance, the extremophiles evolved, the resulting creature would have incredibly tough, thick skin, as well as a mouth somewhat similar to an air lock. When the mouth is opened, a trapdoor of sorts closed at the back of the throat, where the uvula would be. When the mouth is closed, and the acidic water is expelled through a blowhole of sorts, then the trapdoor is opened. This is an example of how life may evolve, however, it may cope in countless other ways. When life emerges on land, it is likely that they would stay somewhat like amphibians, requiring water to keep themselves moist, while still having lungs to breath. If a species does evolve into a reptile, its possible they would evolve a new organ that purifies the water, and expels the acidic waste through an orifice. A mammal-like group would likely never emerge, and flying creatures are somewhat optional. That is all I have to say.


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