Down with the Clowns

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Science  06 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5992, pp. 610
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5992.610-d

One consequence of rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide is an increase in the absorption of CO2 by the ocean. This leads to a gradual decrease in oceanic pH, a change that has been predicted to have adverse effects on marine organisms such as corals because more acidic conditions may inhibit the accretion of calcium carbonate skeletons. Munday et al. show that the recruitment of reef fish populations may also be under threat, due to the effects of higher carbon dioxide levels on the olfactory systems of larval fish. Benthic fish larvae use chemical cues both to locate suitable habitats and to detect and avoid predators. Experiments with larval clownfish and damselfish showed that increasing carbon dioxide levels interfered with their normal aversion to chemical cues derived from predator fish, resulting in riskier behavior that led to increased larval mortality.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 107, 12930 (2010).

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