Selective mortality associated with variation in CO2 tolerance in a marine fish

Predicted future CO2 levels can affect reproduction, growth, and behaviour of many marine organisms. However, the capacity of species to adapt to predicted changes in ocean chemistry is largely unknown. We used a unique field-based experiment to test for differential survival associated with variation in CO2 tolerance in a wild population of coral-reef fishes. Juvenile damselfish exhibited variation in their response to elevated (700 μatm) CO2 when tested in the laboratory and this influenced their behaviour and risk of mortality in the wild. Individuals that were sensitive to elevated CO2 were more active and move further from shelter in natural coral reef habitat and, as a result, mortality from predation was significantly higher compared with individuals from the same treatment that were tolerant of elevated CO2. If individual variation in CO2 tolerance is heritable, this selection of phenotypes tolerant to elevated CO2 could potentially help mitigate the effects of ocean acidification.

Munday P. L., McCormick M. I., Meekan M., Dixson D. L., Watson S.-A., Chivers D. P., Ferrari M. C. O., 2012. Selective mortality associated with variation in CO2 tolerance in a marine fish. Ocean Acidification 1: 1–5. Article.


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