Dr. Steve Simpson of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol and Professor Philip Munday at James Cook University conducted an experiment to study the effects of acidity on developing fish. Clownfish larvae were reared straight from hatching in varying CO2 environments until 17-20 days old, then subjected to predator noises to observe their responses.
Dr. Simpson states: “We kept some of the baby clownfish in today’s conditions, bubbling in air, and then had three other treatments where we added extra CO2 based on the predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for 2050 and 2100.” He continues: “We designed a totally new kind of experimental choice chamber that allowed us to play reef noise through an underwater speaker to fish in the lab, and watch how they responded. Fish reared in today’s conditions swam away from the predator noise, but those reared in the CO2 conditions of 2050 and 2100 showed no response.”
However, the study is careful to point out fish may have the ability to adapt to changing conditions over time. Dr. Simpson goes on to say: “What we have done here is to put today’s fish in tomorrow’s environment, and the effects are potentially devastating. What we don’t know is whether, in the next few generations, fish can adapt and tolerate ocean acidification. This is a one-way experiment on a global scale, and predicting the outcomes and interactions is a major challenge for the scientific community.”