Ocean acidification alters morphology of all otolith types in Clark’s anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)

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Ocean acidification, the ongoing decline of surface ocean pH and [CO 23− ] due to absorption of surplus atmospheric CO 2 , has far-reaching consequences for marine biota, especially calcifiers. Among these are teleost fishes, which internally calcify otoliths, critical elements of the inner ear and vestibular system. There is evidence in the literature that ocean acidification increases otolith size and alters shape, perhaps impacting otic mechanics and thus sensory perception. Here, larval Clark’s anemonefish, Amphiprion clarkii (Bennett, 1830), were reared in various seawater pCO 2 /pH treatments analogous to future ocean scenarios. At the onset of metamorphosis, all otoliths were removed from each individual fish and analyzed for treatment effects on morphometrics including area, perimeter, and circularity; scanning electron microscopy was used to screen for evidence of treatment effects on lateral development, surface roughness, and vaterite replacement. The results corroborate those of other experiments with other taxa that observed otolith growth with elevated pCO 2 , and provide evidence that lateral development and surface roughness increased as well. Both sagittae exhibited increasing area, perimeter, lateral development, and roughness; left lapilli exhibited increasing area and perimeter while right lapilli exhibited increasing lateral development and roughness; and left asterisci exhibited increasing perimeter, roughness, and ellipticity with increasing pCO 2 . Right lapilli and left asterisci were only impacted by the most extreme pCO 2 treatment, suggesting they are resilient to any conditions short of aragonite undersaturation, while all other impacted otoliths responded to lower concentrations. Finally, fish settlement competency at 10 dph was dramatically reduced, and fish standard length marginally reduced with increasing pCO 2 . Increasing abnormality and asymmetry of otoliths may impact inner ear function by altering otolith-maculae interactions.