Reply to: Methods matter in repeating ocean acidification studies

Replying to P. L. Munday et al. Nature (2020)

Pioneering papers by Munday and colleagues1,2 have reported profound effects of end-of-century ocean acidification—simulated by experimentally elevated CO2 levels in seawater—on the behaviour of coral reef fishes, such as extreme attraction of prey species to the chemical cues of their predators. Later studies by the same group reported that a range of other behaviours of coral reef fishes, including swimming activity, behavioural lateralization, homing and different predator avoidance behaviours, were also impaired by ocean acidification3 and that predator-escape behaviours in a coral reef mollusc were also impaired through the same physiological mechanism reported for fishes (that is, through effects on ‘GABAA-like receptors’), which led to the idea that “elevated-CO2 could cause behavioural impairment in a broad suite of marine animals”4. In 2014, we initiated experiments to further explore the physiological mechanism(s) that impaired coral reef fish behaviour in elevated levels of CO2; however, we immediately ran into a problem: despite several attempts, and many improvements to the standard methodology used in this field, we were unable to observe an effect of ocean acidification on fish behaviour. Our initial goal changed from what was meant to be a series of original experiments into a three-year effort to transparently examine behavioural effects of ocean acidification in coral reef fishes5; the findings of our study are the basis for the accompanying Comment by Munday et al.6.

Clark T. D., Raby G. D., Roche D. G., Binning S. A., Speers-Roesch B., Jutfelt F. & Sundin J., 2020. Reply to: Methods matter in repeating ocean acidification studies. Nature 586: E25–E27. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2804-9. Article (subscription required).

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