Climate change could BOOST some fish populations as high levels of CO2 in oceans causes their sex organs to expand and produce more sperm and eggs, study finds

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Some fish species will have bigger reproductive organs in the more acidic, CO2-rich oceans of the future, a new study reveals.

Australian researchers looked at changes to the common triplefin (Forsterygion lapillum), native to the New Zealand coast, at natural underwater CO2 hotspots across the course of three years.

They found the biologically ‘opportunistic’ species capitalises on changes to the underwater ecosystems to grow larger sex organs that produce more sperm and eggs, enhancing the chances of reproductive success.

Elevated CO2 also increases prey resources and can enhance fitness of each individual F. lapillum specimen, the experts say.

Detrimental effects of elevated CO2 in our oceans – which causes ocean acidification – are well documented.

While this positive physiological effect likely applies to other fish species around the world, experts say, it’s likely an exception to the majority of fish species that could be wiped out by increasing CO2 levels.

The common triplefin (Forsterygion lapillum) was found to have larger sex organs in waters off the coast of New Zealand that were naturally high in CO2

The common triplefin (Forsterygion lapillum) was found to have larger sex organs in waters off the coast of New Zealand that were naturally high in CO2

When carbon dioxide enters the oceans, it reacts with the water to form carbonic acid, leading to ocean acidification.

Once excess CO2 in waters enter a fish’s bloodstream it can cause loss of physiological functions such as respiration, circulation and metabolism.

Elevated CO2 in the blood can even cause loss of sense of smell for fish, which compromises their ability to hunt, avoid predators and find suitable spawning grounds.

However, researchers say the indirect effects of elevated CO2 are ‘less well known and can sometimes be counterintuitive’.

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