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Greenhouse Gas Causes Fish to Get 'Drunk' January 20, 2012
Reef clownfish
Clownfish and other reef species become "intoxicated" by carbon dioxide dissolved in the water by human greenhouse gas emissions.
Norwegian scientists say they have discovered why fish become intoxicated and careless when exposed to the high levels of carbon dioxide in water that are expected to prevail in the oceans by the end of the century.

Almost 2.3 billion tons of CO2 are dissolved into the world’s oceans each year due to human greenhouse gas emissions, turning the water ever more acidic.

Philip Munday and colleagues from Australia’s James Cook University had previously found that if reef fish are put in water with higher CO2 levels than normal, they become bolder and more attracted to odors that they would normally avoid, including those of predators.

That risky behavior is now believed to be due to changes to a neurotransmitter receptor called GABA-A.

Munday and colleague Goran Nilsson at the University of Oslo say the fish can be brought back to their senses by treating them with gabazine, a chemical that blocks the GABA-A receptor.

Photo: File