CO2-induced ocean acidification increases anxiety in Rockfish via alteration of GABAA receptor functioning

Trevor James Hamilton, Adam Holcombe, Martin Tresguerres

Abstract

The average surface pH of the ocean is dropping at a rapid rate due to the dissolution of anthropogenic CO2, raising concerns for marine life. Additionally, some coastal areas periodically experience upwelling of CO2-enriched water with reduced pH. Previous research has demonstrated ocean acidification (OA)-induced changes in behavioural and sensory systems including olfaction, which is due to altered function of neural gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) receptors. Here, we used a camera-based tracking software system to examine whether OA-dependent changes in GABAA receptors affect anxiety in juvenile Californian rockfish (Sebastes diploproa). Anxiety was estimated using behavioural tests that measure light/dark preference (scototaxis) and proximity to an object. After one week in OA conditions projected for the next century in the California shore (1125 ± 100 µatm, pH 7.75), anxiety was significantly increased relative to controls (483 ± 40 µatm CO2, pH 8.1). The GABAA-receptor agonist muscimol, but not the antagonist gabazine, caused a significant increase in anxiety consistent with altered Cl flux in OA-exposed fish. OA-exposed fish remained more anxious even after 7 days back in control seawater; however, they resumed their normal behaviour by day 12. These results show that OA could severely alter rockfish behaviour; however, this effect is reversible.

  • Received September 24, 2013.
  • Accepted November 5, 2013.
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