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Oecologia. 2012 Jan;168(1):269-76. doi: 10.1007/s00442-011-2081-2. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

Homing ability of adult cardinalfish is affected by elevated carbon dioxide.

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ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and School of Marine and Tropical Biology, James Cook University, Townsville, QLD, Australia.


The levels of carbon dioxide (CO(2)) predicted for the oceans by the end of this century have recently been shown to impair olfactory discrimination in larval fishes. However, whether this disruption extends to olfactory-mediated behaviour in adult fishes is unknown. In many fishes, adult survival and reproduction can be critically dependent upon navigation to home sites. We tested the effects that near-future levels of CO(2) (550, 700 or 950 ppm) have on the ability of adult five-lined cardinalfish, Cheilodipterus quinquelineatus, to home to their diurnal resting sites after nocturnal feeding. Cardinalfish exposed to elevated CO(2) exhibited impaired ability to distinguish between odours of home- versus foreign-site conspecifics in pair-wise choice experiments. A displacement experiment demonstrated that fish from all CO(2) treatments displayed a 22-31% reduction in homing success compared with control fish when released at 200 m from home sites. While CO(2)-exposed cardinalfish released directly back onto home sites exhibited similar site fidelity to control subjects, behaviour at home sites was affected, with CO(2)-exposed fish exhibiting increased activity levels and venturing further from shelter. This study demonstrates that the potential disruption of chemosensory mechanisms in fishes due to rising CO(2) levels in the ocean extend to critical adult behaviours.

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