Altered oceanic pH impairs mating propensity in a pipefish

Anthropogenic disturbance is currently altering the environment of terrestrial as well as aquatic organisms. Those changes affect a variety of animal behaviours, which in turn may cause changes in species interactions, population dynamics and evolutionary processes. In marine ecosystems, nutrient enrichment may elevate pH, while it is reduced by carbon dioxide-induced ocean acidification. These two processes are not expected to balance one another but rather to affect the environment at different times and scales. We here show experimentally that an increase in water pH has a negative effect on mating propensity in the broad-nosed pipefish Syngnathus typhle, whereas lowered pH did not elicit the same detrimental effect. This study provides, to our knowledge, the first evidence that mating propensity is impaired by an increase in pH, suggesting that anthropogenic nutrient enrichment in aquatic ecosystems may change the processes of sexual selection and population dynamics solely on the basis of altered water pH.

Sundin J., Rosenqvist G. & Berglund A., 2013. Altered oceanic pH impairs mating propensity in a pipefish. Ethology 119: 86–93. Article (subscription required).

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