Odor tracking in sharks is reduced under future ocean acidification conditions

Recent studies show that ocean acidification impairs sensory functions and alters the behavior of teleost fishes. If sharks and other elasmobranchs are similarly affected, this could have significant consequences for marine ecosystems globally. Here, we show that projected future CO2 levels impair odor tracking behavior of the smooth dogfish (Mustelus canis). Adult M. canis were held for 5 days in a current-day control (405 ± 26 μatm) and mid (741 ± 22 μatm) or high CO2 (1064 ± 17 μatm) treatments consistent with the projections for the year 2100 on a ‘business as usual’ scenario. Both control and mid CO2-treated individuals maintained normal odor tracking behavior, whereas high CO2-treated sharks significantly avoided the odor cues indicative of food. Control sharks spent >60% of their time in the water stream containing the food stimulus, but this value fell below 15% in high CO2-treated sharks. In addition, sharks treated under mid and high CO2 conditions reduced attack behavior compared to the control individuals. Our findings show that shark feeding could be affected by changes in seawater chemistry projected for the end of this century. Understanding the effects of ocean acidification on critical behaviors, such as prey tracking in large predators, can help determine the potential impacts of future ocean acidification on ecosystem function.

Dixson D. L., Jennings A. R., Atema J. & Munday P. L., in press. Odor tracking in sharks is reduced under future ocean acidification conditions. Global Change Biology. Article (subscription required).


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