Invited review – the effects of anthropogenic abiotic stressors on the sensory systems of fishes

Graphical abstract.


  • Conditions in abiotic factors of oceans and freshwater habitats are changing quickly due to anthropogenic activity.
  • Low pH impairs olfaction and vision, alters otolith growth, and affects CNS functioning.
  • High temperatures increase the signalling speed of nerves, alters sensory processing, and increases ROS in the CNS.
  • Low oxygen impairs energy production, nerve conduction speed, negatively affects vision and causes apoptosis in the brain.


Climate change is a growing global issue with many countries and institutions declaring a climate state of emergency. Excess CO2 from anthropogenic sources and changes in land use practices are contributing to many detrimental changes, including increased global temperatures, ocean acidification and hypoxic zones along coastal habitats. All senses are important for aquatic animals, as it is how they can perceive and respond to their environment. Some of these environmental challenges have been shown to impair their sensory systems, including the olfactory, visual, and auditory systems. While most of the research is focused on how ocean acidification affects olfaction, there is also evidence that it negatively affects vision and hearing. The effects that temperature and hypoxia have on the senses have also been investigated, but to a much lesser extent in comparison to ocean acidification. This review assembles the known information on how these anthropogenic challenges affect the sensory systems of fishes, but also highlights what gaps in knowledge remain with suggestions for immediate action.

Tigert L. R. & Porteus C. S., 2023. Invited review – the effects of anthropogenic abiotic stressors on the sensory systems of fishes. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology 277: 111366. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2022.111366. Article.

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