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High Carbon Dioxide Levels Cause Abnormally Large Fish Ear Bones

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Aired 6/26/09

New research from UC San Diego shows that corals and soft-shelled creatures may not be the only species hurt by rising levels of carbon dioxide levels in the ocean.

New research from UC San Diego shows that corals and soft-shelled creatures may not be the only species hurt by rising levels of carbon dioxide levels in the ocean.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography study shows that increased carbon dioxide levels caused abnormally large fish ear bones in white seabass.

The fish use the bony structures for navigation and to sense prey.

Scripps Oceanography Professor David Checkley says further research is needed to determine whether the CO2 would cause the same ear bone growth in other fish species.

"We know the physics and the chemistry relatively well of the open ocean," Checkley says. "We know that it's increasing in the concentration of CO2 and it's slowly acidifying and we simply don't know what the effect this will be on populations and ecosystems."

Checkley says it's not known whether the larger ear bones in white seabass will affect its ability to detect and find food.

But he says anything that would interfere with the ability of a fish to feed would have the potential to affect its survival.

Previous studies have shown that increased carbon dioxide levels in the ocean hurts the development of soft-shelled creatures.

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