Balance dysfunction in large yellow croaker in response to ocean acidification


  • Hearing system is important to soniferous and commercial large yellow croaker.
  • How structure and function of whole inner ear responds to acidification is unknow.
  • Left and right paired lapillus became asymmetrical after acidification.
  • Unable to maintain balance after exposure to higher CO2 acidification
  • Nervous system function and mineralization pathways were enriched by RNA-seq.


Large yellow croaker (Larimichthys crocea) is a coastal-dwelling soniferous, commercially important fish species that is sensitive to sound. An understanding of how ocean acidification might affect its auditory system is therefore important for its long-term viability and management as a fisheries resource. We tested the effects of ocean acidification with four CO2 treatments (440 ppm (control), 1000 ppm, 1800 ppm, and 3000 ppm) on the inner ear system of this species. After exposure to acidified water for 50 d, the impacts on the perimeter and mass of the sagitta, asteriscus, and lapillus otoliths were determined. In the acidified water treatments, the shape of sagittal otoliths became more irregular, and the surface became rougher. Similar sound frequency ranges triggered startle responses of fish in all treatments. In the highest CO2 treatment (3000 ppm CO2), significant asymmetry of the left and right lapillus perimeter and weight was apparent. Moreover, in the higher CO2 treatments (1800 ppm and 3000 ppm CO2), the fish were unable to maintain a balanced dorsal-up posture and tilted to one side. This result suggested that the balance functions of the inner ear might be affected by ocean acidification, which may threaten large yellow croaker individuals and populations. The molecular response to acidification was analyzed by RNA-Seq. The differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between right and left sensory epithelia of the utricle in each CO2 treatment group were identified. In higher CO2 concentration groups, nervous system function and regulation of bone mineralization pathways were enriched with DEGs. The comparative transcriptome analyses provide valuable molecular information about how the inner ear system responds to an acidified environment.

Wang X., Feng Y., Zhang Z., Li C. & Han H., 2023. Balance dysfunction in large yellow croaker in response to ocean acidification. Science of the Total Environment 874: 162444. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.162444. Article.

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