Rising acidity levels in seawater, resulting from the ocean absorbing increasing amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, are causing clownfish some serious problems.
According to the British online news site The Guardian, scientists have tested clownfish larvae and discovered that the heightened acidity levels have perhaps damaged the fishes’ olfactory systems, which allow them to detect crucial habit-specific odors as they mature. Scientists say that fish raised in water with excess carbon dioxide—a direct result of burning fossil fuels—have become disoriented and unable to locate optimal habitats for survival.
“They can’t distinguish between their own parents and other fish, and they become attracted to substances they previously avoided,” Kjell Døving, a biology professor from the University of Oslo, told The Guardian. “It means the larvae will have less opportunity to find the right habitat, which could be devastating for their populations,” he explained.
Carbon emissions and their subsequent seawater acidity levels are expected to continue to rise well into the next century.