The effects of short-term exposure to pH reduction on the behavioral and physiological parameters of juvenile black rockfish (Sebastes schlegelii)

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The reduction in seawater pH as a consequence of ocean acidification has resulted in a considerable challenge for the adaptation of fish. The effects of pH fluctuations in coastal regions on offshore fish are not fully understood in terms of their behavioral and physiological responses. In the present study, we aimed to examine the consequences of a brief period of reduced pH levels on the behavioral and physiological performance of juvenile black rockfish (Sebastes schlegelii). The findings revealed that juvenile black rockfish could withstand changes in pH, but there was a significant impact on their activity state and metabolic levels. The present study will enhance our understanding of the behavioral and physiological responses of costal fish (the black rockfish, in this case) to acidic conditions.


Coastal areas are subject to greater pH fluctuation and more rapid pH decline as a result of both natural and anthropogenic influences in contrast to open ocean environments. Such variations in pH have the potential to pose a threat to the survival and physiological function of offshore fishes. With the aim of evaluating the impact of short-term pH reduction on the behavioral performance and physiological response of costal fish, the black rockfish (Sebastes schlegelii), one of the principal stock-enhanced species, was examined. In the present study, juveniles of the black rockfish with a mean body length of 6.9 ± 0.3 cm and weight of 8.5 ± 0.5 g were exposed to a series of pHs, 7.0, 7.2, 7.4, 7.6, 7.8, and normal seawater (pH 8.0) for 96 h. At the predetermined time points post-exposure (i.e., 0, 12, 24, 48, and 96 h), fish movement behavior was recorded and the specimens were sampled to assess their physiological responses. The results indicate that the lowered pH environment (pH 7.0–7.8) elicited a significant increase in highly mobile behavior, a decrease in immobile behavior, and a significant rise in the metabolic levels of the black rockfish juveniles. Specifically, carbohydrate metabolism was significantly elevated in the pH 7.2 and 7.4 treatments, while lipid metabolism was significantly increased in the pH 7.0, 7.4, and 7.8 treatments. The results of the present study indicate that short-term reductions in pH could ramp up boldness and boost energy expenditure in the black rockfish juveniles, leading to an increased metabolic cost. Additionally, the present investigation revealed that the black rockfish juveniles were capable of adapting to a short-term pH reduction. The findings may provide insight into the underlying physiological mechanisms that govern fish responses to potential decreases in seawater pH in the future.

Li H., Zhang J., Ge X., Chen S. & Ma Z., 2023. The effects of short-term exposure to pH reduction on the behavioral and physiological parameters of juvenile black rockfish (Sebastes schlegelii). Biology 12(6): 876. doi: 10.3390/biology12060876. Article.

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