Effect of ocean acidification on otolith development in larvae of a tropical marine fish
- 1ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
- 2Centre for Marine Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia
- 3Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA
Abstract. Calcification in many invertebrate species is predicted to decline due to ocean acidification. The potential effects of elevated CO2 and reduced carbonate saturation state on other species, such as fish, are less well understood. Fish otoliths (earbones) are composed of aragonite, and thus, might be susceptible to either the reduced availability of carbonate ions in seawater at low pH, or to changes in extracellular concentrations of bicarbonate and carbonate ions caused by acid-base regulation in fish exposed to high pCO2. We reared larvae of the clownfish Amphiprion percula from hatching to settlement at three pHNBS and pCO2 levels (control: ~pH 8.15 and 404 μatm CO2; intermediate: pH 7.8 and 1050 μatm CO2; extreme: pH 7.6 and 1721 μatm CO2) to test the possible effects of ocean acidification on otolith development. There was no effect of the intermediate treatment (pH 7.8 and 1050 μatm CO2) on otolith size, shape, symmetry between left and right otoliths, or otolith elemental chemistry, compared with controls. However, in the more extreme treatment (pH 7.6 and 1721 μatm CO2) otolith area and maximum length were larger than controls, although no other traits were significantly affected. Our results support the hypothesis that pH regulation in the otolith endolymph can lead to increased precipitation of CaCO3 in otoliths of larval fish exposed to elevated CO2, as proposed by an earlier study, however, our results also show that sensitivity varies considerably among species. Importantly, our results suggest that otolith development in clownfishes is robust to even the more pessimistic changes in ocean chemistry predicted to occur by 2100.