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Fish learn to cope in a high CO2 world
Date:7/3/2012

Some coral reef fish may be better prepared to cope with rising CO2 in the world's oceans thanks to their parents.

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) today reported in the journal Nature Climate Change, encouraging new findings that some fish may be less vulnerable to high CO2 and an acidifying ocean than previously feared.

"There has been a lot of concern around the world about recent findings that baby fish are highly vulnerable to small increases in acidity, as more CO2 released by human activities dissolves into the oceans," says Dr Gabi Miller of CoECRS and James Cook University.

"Our work with anemone fish shows that their babies, at least, can adjust to the changes we expect to occur in the oceans by 2100, provided their parents are also raised in more acidic water."

"Human activity is expected to increase the acidity of the world's oceans by 0.3 to 0.4 pH by the end of this century, on our present trends in CO2 emissions," co-researcher Prof Philip Munday says.

"Previous studies, and our own research, have shown that growth and survival of juvenile fish can be seriously affected when the baby fish are exposed to these sorts of CO2 and pH levels," he says.

"However when we exposed both parents and their offspring in more acidic water we found that the anemone fish, at least, were able to compensate for the change" says Dr Miller. Whether this effect lasts all their lives, remains to be seen." she adds.

How parent fish actually pass on this ability to deal with acidity to their offspring is still a mystery, says Prof Munday. "The time interval is too short for it to be genetic adaptation in the normal sense. However, it's an important parental effect that we need to factor in as we assess the vulnerability of the world's fish stocks to the planet-wide changes in ocean chemistry that humans
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Contact: Gabrielle Miller
gabrielle.miller1@jcu.edu.au
61-043-013-6300
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
Source:Eurekalert

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