Carbon dioxide is laughing gas for fish

carbon dioxide making baby fish act crazyEver been exposed to laughing gas ? A dose of the stuff, can quickly turn you from a sane composed human being, into a giggling buffoon.

It appears, carbon dioxide is laughing gas for fish ! Only the fish aren’t really laughing.

Carbon dioxide doing more than cooking the planet

We are all aware that carbon dioxide emissions pose a danger to human existence, primarily because of the propensity of the gas turn up the heat. It’s the hotter air ,which sets off a cascade of trouble…..

But, whiffing carbon dioxide causes fish a few sensory dilemmas too, leaving them acting a little CRAZY.

Fish brains frazzled by CO2

Australian researchers have been monitoring the behaviour of baby coral fish , in sea water containing higher levels of dissolved CO2.

When these little guys are exposed to extra CO2, they stop thinking clearly.

The fuzzy thinking arises because the CO2 is triggering a key brain receptor, the GABAA receptor, inside the fish’s brain. When this receptor is set off, it causes big changes to brain chemistry, leading to altered sensory states. Changed perceptions in fish result in weird behaviours.

The smaller the fish, the bigger the problem.

CO2 makes baby fish fearless

For baby coral fish, the CO2 seems to give them a shot of “courage”, turning them into fearless warriors afraid of nothing and no one.

But at the same time, these go getter fish, struggle to get anywhere, because they have lost all sense of direction. Instead of swimming towards the safety of the reef, they head out to sea.

Courageous lost fish, may be happy in the moment, but the moment is short lived. Bigger fish are happy to enjoy them as an entree.

CO2 no laughing matter

The threat / reality of global warming and climate change are the focus of our attention, when it comes to cutting CO2 emissions.

But the extra CO2 is also having a negative impact on oceans. As the CO2 dissolves in the water, it bumps up the pH, these altered pH levels impact on the ability of sea creatures to survive and reproduce.

On top of the changes to their environment, the extra CO2 has the potential to drive some fish crazy, by damaging their nervous systems.

For the sake of the fishes….

Do your bit to use a little less energy !

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Near-future carbon dioxide levels alter fish behaviour by interfering with neurotransmitter function. Nature Climate Change (2012) 2:201-204,  Göran E. Nilsson, Danielle L. Dixson, Paolo Domenici, Mark I. McCormick, Christina Sørensen, Sue-Ann Watson, Philip L. Munday. 
 

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