Ocean acidification, caused by increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO 2 (refs.1-3), is one of the most critical anthropogenicthreats to marine life. Changes in seawater carbonate chemistry have the potential to disturb calcification, acid-base regulation, blood circulation and respiration, as well as the nervous system of marine organisms, leading to long-term effects such as reduced growth rates and reproduction. In teleost fishes, early life-history stages are particularly vulnerable as they lack specialized internal pH regulatory mechanisms. So far, impacts of relevant CO 2 concentrations on larval fish have been found in behaviour and otolith size, mainly in tropical, non-commercial species. Here we show detrimental effects of ocean acidification on the development of a mass-spawning fish species of high commercial importance. We reared Atlantic cod larvae at three levels of CO 2, (1) present day, (2) end of next century and (3) an extreme, coastal upwelling scenario, in a long-term (months) mesocosm experiment. Exposure to CO 2 resulted in severe to lethal tissue damage in many internal organs, with the degree of damage increasing with CO 2 concentration. As larval survival is the bottleneck to recruitment, ocean acidification has the potential to act as an additional source of natural mortality, affecting populations of already exploited fish stocks.
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