CO2 increases to make drunken clownfish

Ocellaris clownfish, Amphiprion ocellaris

From Nature.com, is there anything trace amounts of CO2 can’t do? As if clownfish (the test subject) don’t already act funny.

The New Scientist says:

Carbon dioxide in the ocean acts like alcohol on fish, leaving them less able to judge risks and prone to losing their senses. The intoxication adds to the threats that global warming and ocean acidification pose to marine ecosystems.

Here’s the paper in Nature Climate Change:
Near-future carbon dioxide levels alter fish behaviour by interfering with neurotransmitter function

Göran E. Nilsson, Danielle L. Dixson, Paolo Domenici, Mark I. McCormick, Christina Sørensen, Sue-Ann Watson & Philip L. Munday

Nature Climate Change (2012) doi:10.1038/nclimate1352
Received 18 August 2011, Accepted 29 November 2011, Published online 15 January 2012

Abstract:


Predicted future CO2 levels have been found to alter sensory responses and behaviour of marine fishes. Changes include increased boldness and activity, loss of behavioural lateralization, altered auditory preferences and impaired olfactory function1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Impaired olfactory function makes larval fish attracted to odours they normally avoid, including ones from predators and unfavourable habitats1, 3. These behavioural alterations have significant effects on mortality that may have far-reaching implications for population replenishment, community structure and ecosystem function2, 6. However, the underlying mechanism linking high CO2 to these diverse responses has been unknown. Here we show that abnormal olfactory preferences and loss of behavioural lateralization exhibited by two species of larval coral reef fish exposed to high CO2 can be rapidly and effectively reversed by treatment with an antagonist of the GABA-A receptor. GABA-A is a major neurotransmitter receptor in the vertebrate brain. Thus, our results indicate that high CO2 interferes with neurotransmitter function, a hitherto unrecognized threat to marine populations and ecosystems. Given the ubiquity and conserved function of GABA-A receptors, we predict that rising CO2 levels could cause sensory and behavioural impairment in a wide range of marine species, especially those that tightly control their acid–base balance through regulatory changes in HCO3− and Cl− levels.

==============================================================

The Daily Bayonet sums up this research pretty well:

That researchers chose the colorful and movie-famous clownfish as the subject for their study instead of the toadfish or other, less photogenic, aquatic reef dwellers, has nothing to do with winning headlines and funding. Probably.

75 thoughts on “CO2 increases to make drunken clownfish

  1. So these fish species are evolutionary dead ends given the natural wide variation of CO2 locally in the ocean. If CO2 screws them up how did they survive until now.

  2. Predicted future CO2 levels have been found….

    Can someone read the paper and see what that is?
    ..then someone explain how you could be CO2 levels up that high in sea water?

    According to these nubnuts, the water would become so acid the fish would have long ago died…..

  3. That researchers chose the colorful and movie-famous clownfish as the subject for their study instead of the toadfish or other, less photogenic, aquatic reef dwellers, has nothing to do with winning headlines and funding. Probably.

    ###

    Well, Clownfish, besides being able to be bread in captivity, have a lot of characteristics that make them more suited then other marine species for study. That being said, this whole line of research is bunk. BTW, I have actually kept Clownfish in elevated CO2 conditions so I can really call BS on this.

    Clownfish are naturally VERY aggressive. I seriously doubt that these kids playing scientist have any sort of useful metric.

  4. as demonstrated many times, the higher up the food chain, the more impact it has, thus….the predators must be passed out on the sea floor….

  5. “Carbon dioxide in the ocean acts like alcohol on fish, leaving them prone to losing their senses.”

    ___________________________________________________________________________

    Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere appears to have the same effect on certain scientists….

  6. This is good news, with fish being less able to judge risks, fishing should get a whole lot easier, (since fish used to be great at judging risks) and the prices at your favorite seafood restaurant should be dropping.

  7. Pu-leeeeeez. Add to their long list of iconic cute-creatures. Dolphins. Whales. Bears (though they are anything but cute close-up). Pandas. Nemo…er, Clownfish. Dumb it down to the media-star creatures.

    Amazingly, Nemo is pictured swimming through a toxic forest of anemone tentacles, so yes indeed a little bit of CO2 is going to affect him???

    And all the while never wonder how albino crabs and bizarre tube-worms thrive at the brink of acidic geothermal-spewing black smokers? These people have become shameless genuflectors to a cause akin to some wacky revivalist religion. The public is yawning. And forgive the sentiment, but I feel the urge to bitch-slap some sense into some of these ‘researchers’.

  8. James Delingpole has provided a fine contribution to discussion of this latest piece of silliness, entitled “Losing Nemo”:

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/

    Honestly, what next? “Kittens lose will to live with increasing CO2″; or “Cute puppies to be a thing of the past, says climate researcher” or perhaps “Adorable foals at risk – we need to act now, says climate activist”.

    They are really scraping the bottom of the barrel here.

    Although, a “Goldfish against CO2″ movement might attract some fleeting interest.

  9. “Predicted future CO2 levels have been found to alter sensory responses and behaviour of marine fishes. ”

    Am I missing something here??? Is not a prediction something that may happen in the FUTURE,but has not yet occured ??
    Sooooooo….how can something that has not happened “have been found to alter” any darn thing? I am so confuzzed. Any help?

  10. “The pair reared clownfish (Amphiprion percula) larvae in seawater with normal (450 microatmospheres) and elevated (900 microatmospheres) CO2 levels.”

    Apperantly 900microatmospheres is the CO2 level expected by the end of this century.
    Reading the story on the magazine’s website make me think that this was one of those studies with a pre-decided outcome.

  11. Time traveling CO2 molecules wreak havoc, drunken fish, melting glaciers, next cats and dogs living together, ohhh….

  12. How this reads to me :

    “Dang, they aren’t buying the acidification scare angle…… better come up with something else scary – how about CO2 drunken fish …. yeah, that sounds like a good new angle to keep the grant gravy train rolling “

  13. gary murphy
    So, are they saying the oceans are getting cooler, huh? Colder water means more co2 absorption (solubility). can’t have it both ways.

  14. Next time I go trout fishing I’ll take along a bottle of CO2 and get the trout drunk enough to ‘trust me’. Maybe I can even convince them that I only want to take them out for dinner.

    I can’t wait until warm weather when the suckers run.

  15. eyesonu says:
    January 17, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    “Next time I go trout fishing I’ll take along a bottle of CO2 and get the trout drunk enough to ‘trust me’. Maybe I can even convince them that I only want to take them out for dinner.

    I can’t wait until warm weather when the suckers run.
    ____________________________________
    Richard Brautigan beat you to it.

  16. The proper experiment would have been to start with today’s CO2 level and increase it to 2100’s ‘expected’ CO2 level but over a period of 88 years so that acclimatisation can be included.

  17. This research confirms something I suggested here a while back.

    That people like Hansen et al will eventually blame the high levels of CO2 for their junk science. As it is described here, It made them “prone to losing their senses.”

    High levels of CO2 also make all data collection instruments faulty, so they had to adjust them.

    CO2 causes everything.

    Clownfish. Team climate scientists. And the difference is…. ? That clownfish are highly successful survivors who will be with us for a long time yet while Team climastrologists aren’t..

  18. Because greater availability of CO2 in sea water could not possibly be counterbalanced by greater photosynthetic activity turning it into molecular oxygen. And these clowns call themselves biologists.

  19. DesertYote is right on the money with his comment. Percula clownfish are commonly kept in reef aquariums, where it’s common to keep CO2 levels elevated to feed the symbiotic algae in the coral polyps and to encourage coral growth. Most aquarists don’t keep larval fish. But clownfishes are extensively bred in captivity at commercial fisheries. It would be interesting to have commercial fish breeders, who know what they are doing and who know a lot about normal and abnormal behaviours of fish, to confirm these results.

  20. Hey Clownfish – don’t hold yer breath (so to speak).

    Every time these goofballs promise us something based on what CO2 supposedly will do – IT NEVER HAPPENS.

  21. The increase in CO2 will require many generations of clownfish. The populations should be able to adapt in the usual way — in each generation, the least adapted will die at the highest rates. Meanwhile, all their predator and food source populations will be adapting in the same way. These people (non-identfied) keep forgetting that they believe in evolution via random variation and natural selection.

  22. It was the wee hours when Mr. Clownfish finally stumbled through the door. Just when he thought he might make it to his bed… the lights blazed on and he heard the unpleasant screech of Mrs. Clownfish “How dare you come home, at this hour, stinking of soda!” she screamed. “You have been down to the reef again, sopping up CO2 haven’t you?!” Mr. Clownfish weaved a little and looked down at his puke stained shoes and timidly nodded. Suddenly, the orange color drained from Mrs. Clownfish’s contorted face and she sceamed “Is that guppy slime on your collar?!” Mr Clownfish felt too ashamed to answer and then she sobbed “How could you? Think of the children” she cried. It was at that moment Mr. Clownfish realized that life was over as he knew it. “Damn that blasted CO2″ he moaned. “Why doesn’t someone ban it?” was his only response. GK

  23. CO2 is amazing stuff. On a current affairs program recently here in Australia, CO2 can cause drivers to fall asleep and crash while driving a car. I had to laugh.

  24. They should consider themselves lucky that the missing heat sneaks through their environment without a trace on its way down to the bottom of the ocean.

  25. Makes you wonder how the fish ever manage to eat: Metabolizing food produces lots of carbon dioxide which is excreted, errr…., into the ocean.

  26. jorgekafkazar says:
    January 17, 2012 at 7:00 pm
    Clownfish. Well, let’s see somebody else repeat the study and see if the same results are obtained. WUWT had info on another study:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/06/04/co2-deafens-nemo-or-how-many-ichthyologists-can-you-fit-in-that-car/

    It appears the warmists have given up on polar bears as their poster child. Somebody must have tipped them off that polar bears eat baby seals…

    __________________________________________________________________________
    There was also this one

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/07/07/now-its-co2-killing-nemo/

    It may be time to resurrect a strategy I suggested quite a while back. It involved an organized effort to report the purveyors of this terrorizing propaganda to local Child Services agencies across the country as serial child abusers. Reports of children needing to undergo therapy as a consequence of all the doom mongering they are exposed to have been ever more frequent over recent years and, given the shoddy basis of most this nonsense, the continued targeting of the most vulnerable clearly constitutes child abuse in my book.

  27. Sorry to say it folks but the concept has face validity. Much however would depend on the ability of the clownfish to maintain homoeostasis in a lower pH environment or to upregulate/downregulate GABA and allied receptor systems. A human who cannot maintain a pH within the normal range of 7.35 to 7.45 becomes quite unwell. Usually the problem is acidosis (ie, a lower than normal pH) with decidedly adverse effects on the central nervous system include anxiety, irritability, and sometimes delirium and confusion. A human with a pH of 7.0 (ie, chemically neutral) can be very sick. So as with humans, so too with fish.

  28. Now that the warmists have lost the scientific argument on AGW and all its variant acronyms, they need another bogeyman to try to keep alive their hopes, cushy jobs, incomes, investments in green technologies, carbon credits and ploitical credibility. Ocean acidification, which is not happening since at worst what we may remotely have is reduced alkalinity is now being banded about, reported in the main stream media instead of global warming to try to scare us into subission. Hence the Hollywoodian clownfish.

  29. Land-based life has already seen a rise in atmospheric CO2 of about 140ppmv during the past decades; from approx 250 to 390 ppmv. Did we humans have experienced any effect on our bodies? I have never seen any report that says so. Not even on smallest of vertebrates. Not on insects, microbial life or any type of terrestrial life.

    This steady increase in atmospheric CO2 should impact on the oceans, according to Henry’s law, by increasing the dissolved CO2 according to this law. However, since global warming also heats the oceans, then CO2 is released from the oceans at these higher temperatures. Meanwhile, the oceans contain 50 times the CO2 in the atmosphere, which could mean that global warming releases more CO2 than is dissolved when the planet heats up due to increased atmospheric CO2. However we are not even sure if increasing atmospheric CO2 causes global warming or the other way round, that global warming causes release of CO2 from the oceans.

    I an scientifically convinced that the clown-fish species will outlive the AGW theorist species.

  30. …..the clown fish gets clownier….. enhancing his performance…..whats wrong with it?
    Well, if the sea cucumber would get clowny that would be different….

  31. The skeptic is alive and well in me but my inquiring mind needs satiating. I know the Clown fish will be here long after we humans have gone.

    Can one of the great commentator’s or Anthony help with my question.
    I’m sure a lot of readers may have had the same questions?

    In the pre-Industrial times the atmosphere contained 260 parts / million of CO2
    Present day = 2012 the atmosphere contained 390 parts / million of CO2

    The Clown fish report indicates: The pair reared clown fish (Amphiprion percula) larvae in seawater with normal (450 microatmospheres) and elevated (900 microatmospheres) CO2 levels.

    Here is my question: Using the reasoning and calculations of the Researchers from the Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University

    1. When the the atmosphere contained 260 parts / million of CO2 (pCO2) how many microatmospheres would have been present or measured on the ocean?

    2. The Researchers indicated: Seawater with NORMAL 450 microatmospheres would that be at 260 parts / million of CO2 in the atmosphere OR the present day atmosphere readings contained 390 parts / million of CO2. What did they consider a normal CO2 atmospheric level as there baseline?

    3. The Researchers indicated: Seawater with ELEVATED 900 microatmospheres CO2 levels. What would the atmosphere CO2 parts / million be to achieve this level in the ocean?

    4. How does one calculate OR cross relate microatmospheres CO2 in relation to atmospheric CO2 parts/ million.
    Thanks for the help.
    Dave.

  32. @ Dave re microatmosphere

    Good questions Dave and I await a more knowedgeable responce than mine, but in the meantime….

    I think the 450 microatmosphere value relates to present day atmosphiric concentrations of ~390ppm and the 900 would be an approximate doubling of the atmospheric concentration.

    I found this that might be usefull (I need to read it again! I think all the co2 in my beer is making me a bit fuzzy.), http://cdiac.ornl.gov/ftp/ndp047/ndp047.txt

    Rich

  33. Dave,
    I don’t have access paywalled articles, but here is one that touches on the subject.

    http://www.int-res.com/articles/meps/158/m158p061.pdf

    If you look on the web for the article (Nature) the supplementary information names a program used to calculate CO2 levels. I can’t speak to it’s validity.
    I have read criticisms elsewhere that the pH measurement scale (pHNBS) they use is far from ideal for seawater because of large disparities in ionic strength.

    Myself, I would also have asked to see full dose-response curves for both CO2 levels and the drug (gabazine) that they administer. Standard practice. They chose a dose of ~5mg/litre simply on the basis that ~5mg/kg is tolerated im mammals!

  34. I’d doubt that CO2 would be anywhere near as hazardous as this improbable compound, neon molybdenide (NeMo), which directly targets the poor suckers.

  35. “we predict that rising CO2 levels could cause sensory and behavioural impairment”

    “could”??????

    Wow, if only I could find a bookie who pays out on such ‘results’.

    I predict that consumption of lentils could cause it to rain pianos. Thus we need to cut down on eating lentils!

  36. Increase p[CO2] and you increase pH, so they adjust two variables and admit only one.

    Go figure…..

  37. No, occifer, i’d not bin drinkin (hic), damn evelated carbon diosified ….. dioxified …… dioxidied levels (hic) have interfered with my neurotransmitter funkshuuuun (hic)

  38. Mike Bromley the Canucklehead says:
    January 17, 2012 at 6:38 pm
    Mike, you got it in one, Nemo…er, Clownfish.
    Panic the children.

  39. Ah! Now I understand why and how the British Empire vanished. They started drinking foreign lagers full of CO2.

  40. “Predicted future CO2 levels have been found to alter sensory responses and behaviour of marine fishes.”

    It would be quite extraordinary indeed, in fact, unprecedented, if “future” CO2 levels have already been found to alter anything–sensory, behavior, or otherwise. How exactly does that work? Backwards causality? Time reversal? Wow! What a discovery if true!

    Fortunately, they are not talking about “future CO2 levels,” but rather, “PREDICTED future CO2 levels.” So if there’s a problem, the solution is easy: simply quite “PREDICTING” future CO2 levels!

  41. I especially don’t buy this because a lot of marine aquarium keepers have CO2 reactors on their tanks to increase the CO2 concentration to stimulate photosynthesis. They usually then compensate the pH by adding CaCO3 (which they do anyways, to maintain pH between water changes).

    But I think the critique included as a part of the article is off. I have a mated pair of ocellaris clowns in my tank that were purchased in 2000 and began breeding in late 2001. They have large broods (this is a study of larval fish, remember), the young are relatively easy to raise, and to the very best of my knowledge they have not missed a single bi-weekly breeding cycle in that entire period of now more than a decade. Though they probably missed when we moved the tanks from Charlottesville to Northern Virginia. That’s why clowns are used, not for the photogenic benefits.

  42. I really don’t know why they bothered with their fancy-nancy clown fish experiment.

    It seems perfectly self-evident that even small increases in atmospheric CO2 have a powerful hallucinogenic effect on a significant proportion of the population of human beings.

    Surely it follows that there will be similar effects on other species ???

  43. The big issue I see is that brains adjust their neurotransmitter levels over time. SO how FAST did they wiggle the CO2 levels? Just as heavy drinkers become habituated to booze and it takes a quart of whiskey to feel anything, and just as regular smokers need a daily smoke to feel normal, etc. So who’s to say they are not just measuring the response time of the adaptive mechanism?

    IIRC, submariners can go to much higher levels of CO2 if the onset is slow.

  44. Have these researchers considered that the fish may adapt, evolve? Thank God past co2 levels of 4,000 ppm didn’t wipe out all our seafood. ;>)

  45. People keep fish in aquariums indoors and I don’t think they observed the poor fish being dizzy. Improperly ventilated rooms can get over 1000 ppm CO2. A well ventilated room is like 600 ppm, a typical value is 800 ppm. Oceans and seas tend to stay outdoor, so CO2 is lower than that. Now there will be a while until CO2 will increase outside to 1000 ppm, and I think it won’t be exactly the same thing as increasing the CO2 suddenly as they did for the poor fish.
    Increasingly acid water? Somebody please tell those pseudoscientists that pH of 8 is above 7, and only below it’s acidic, above 7 is basic.

  46. All I know is that Clown Fish LOVE snails. Have an aquarium overrun with snails, put in some clown fish, no more problem as they just flip them over and dine. Pretty fish to watch too.

  47. from: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21355-carbon-dioxide-encourages-risky-behaviour-in-clownfish.html
    “When they reached adulthood, the fish were given a choice between a water stream containing the odour of common predators such as the rock cod (Cephalopholis cyanostigma) or a stream lacking predatory odours. Those reared in high levels of CO2 swam towards rock cod’s scent around 90 per cent of the time, whereas those that had enjoyed normal levels of CO2 avoided the predator’s scent more than 90 per cent of the time.”

    The control fish avoided the predators 90% of the time. It would have been significant if the exposed fish had only avoided the predators 50% of the time. That would have indicated no judgement was left in their intoxicated little brains. But the newscientist article claims they were attracted to predators 90% of the time. Not 40, 50, 60, or 70 percent of the time but a complete reversal from +90% to -90%. Isn’t that an amazing coincidence.

  48. Luther Wu says:
    January 17, 2012 at 7:43 pm
    eyesonu says:
    January 17, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    “Next time I go trout fishing I’ll take along a bottle of CO2 and get the trout drunk enough to ‘trust me’. Maybe I can even convince them that I only want to take them out for dinner.

    I can’t wait until warm weather when the suckers run.”
    ____________________________________
    Richard Brautigan beat you to it.

    ==========================

    Did Brautigan get the trout drunk or did he convince them he only wanted to take them out for dinner?

    Or, did he stand happily in the water and get the suckers drunk?

    Or, did he refer to the ‘suckers’ running for political office who were outed for supporting such nonsense in so-called science?

    Or, did he refer to the political operatives running for cover after having such nonsense being revealed to the world by WUWT?

  49. Joachim Seifert says:
    January 18, 2012 at 10:07 am
    …..the clown fish gets clownier….. enhancing his performance…..whats wrong with it?
    Well, if the sea cucumber would get clowny that would be different….

    ===================

    An enhanced performance see cucumber spewing all over the corals and acting rather clownish ….. ?

  50. Richard Keen says:
    January 18, 2012 at 9:18 pm
    I’d doubt that CO2 would be anywhere near as hazardous as this improbable compound, neon molybdenide (NeMo), which directly targets the poor suckers.

    ===================

    Is neon molybdenide (NeMo) a date rape drug?

  51. Do these ‘clowns’ doing research come up with such sh*t just to amuse us and be the light of our jokes are are they serious?

  52. **HIC**

    You know, Nemo, **HIC** I never loved your mother.

    Sounds like Thanksgiving at my house. :-)

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