New ocean acidification study

The study looks at the hearing sensitivty of larval cobia. Photo: NOAA The study looks at the hearing sensitivty of larval cobia. Photo: NOAA

A new study published in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA’ has revealed a new insight into the potential effects of ocean acidification on the sensory function of larval tropical cobia.

The study was carried out by researchers and scientists from the University of Miami’s (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

They used 3D x-rays (micro CT) to determine that fish raised in low pH seawater, simulating future conditions, have larger and more dense otoliths (ear stones) than those from higher pH seawater. The changes resulted in up to a 58% increase in otoliths mass, and when tested in a mathematical model of otoliths function, showed a potential increase in hearing sensitivity and up to a 50% increase in hearing range.

Sean Bignami, who led the study, said: “Increased hearing sensitivity could improve a fish’s ability to use sound for navigation, predator avoidance, and communication. However, it could also increase their sensitivity to common background noises, which may disrupt the detection of more useful auditory information.”

He added: “This effect of ocean acidification represents a significant change to a key sensory system in fish. Although the ultimate ecological consequences still need to be determined, there is the potential for serious impact on important processes such as larval fish recruitment and fisheries replenishment in this species and perhaps other critical fisheries.”  

Video: Sean Bignami/UM/RSMAS

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