Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In this occasional series, Human Nature shares three recent stories of interest in our world.
The story: Australia’s Planet Ark Environmental Foundation reported on an unusual method some fish are adopting in order to acclimate themselves to the changing ocean chemistry resulting from climate change. Carbon dioxide levels in the ocean naturally vary between day and night; algae, seaweed and other ocean-dwelling plants are more active during the day when they can absorb more sunlight and carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. A recent study found that in order to adapt to increased ocean acidification, a species of damselfish in the Great Barrier Reef is altering its body clock to permanent nighttime levels.
What’s next: Scientists are cautiously optimistic that this change demonstrates one method fish might employ to adapt to climate change. However, Dr. Philip Munday of Australia’s James Cook University believes that “more study is needed to see how far beneficial genes can be inherited.” Higher acidification levels and other climate change impacts may also reduce the ability of fish to reproduce and pass on such beneficial genes.