back to article Ecopocalypse causes giant fish ears

Under the sea, fish are growing abnormally large ear bones - and it's all our fault. According to a study published Friday in the prestigious journal Science, boffins at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at San Diego's University of California have discovered that rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the world's …


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  1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Me too, me too!

    Ah, the joy of correlating correlations of correlated guesswork...

    I guess you could publish a paper on the colour of your turd in Nature or Science these days, provided you shoehorned a link to climate change.

    Come to think of it, me an the vast majority of my mates were considerably slimmer in the eighties. We tended to eat less, too. So the evil "global warming" made us fat, which made us eat more, which pushed towards a more destructive food industry, back-fueling the "global warming" and thus making us even fatter, etc. Not to mention the increased production of methane-rich human wastes. May I have my Nature paper now?

  2. LaeMi Qian

    The directional-sensory parts of the ear, at least

    What we generally consider the 'ear bones' (the 'ossicles' AKA the stirrup, the hammer and the anvil) developed from gill support bones, I read recently. The balance mechanism is the mentioned otoliths AKA: semi-circular canals. But they are all bones in the ear, of course, so 'ear bones' fits. Just made my brain have to stretch a bit, which is never a bad thing.

    I for one welcome our big-ear-boned aquatic underlords.

  3. Anonymous Bastard

    "carbon dioxide concentrations [...] are causing sea bass to grow oversized otoliths"

    So these are mutant sea bass. Are they also ill tempered? That would be a start.

  4. Balefire

    Isn't this how eveolution works?

    "The assumption is that anything that departs significantly from normality is an abnormality and abnormalities at least have the potential for having deleterious effects."

    Yes, but it also has the potential for the beneficial effects of helping them survive the changing environment?

    Mine's the one with the third arm

  5. Keith T

    Obviously has affected Obama and Prince Charles


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ear bones? Fix the lead (pb) first!

    > David Checkley, a Scripps professor and lead author of the study

    Well - if you want to drag lead (pb) into the discussion, go ahead... but I have to say that lead levels are rising around the world and leading to a wholesale drop in intellectual capacity for humans and perhaps for fish as well...

  7. jake Silver badge

    Shouldn't that be "ecopocollapse"?

    Just asking.

  8. frank ly

    @Balefire re. Isn't this how eveolution works?

    Yes, but only if you're a woman. If you're a man then it's called adamolution.

    If you're a nutter it's called Intelligent design (had to slip that one in).

  9. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    It's not the lead (pb)

    Lead has nothing to with the drop in intellectual capacity. That responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of text messaging and so-called "reality"-based shows that are beating our neurons senseless.

  10. Anonymous John

    As they're probably listening,

    I for one welcome our new mutant piscine overlords.

  11. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Have your cake and eat it time...

    "The assumption is that anything that departs significantly from normality is an abnormality and abnormalities at least have the potential for having deleterious effects."

    Um. Perhaps.

    Also, if the environment is changing (as it does all the time), anything which remains significantly close to 'normality' (whatever that is) also has the potential for having deleterious effects.

    So ANYTHING(tm) can prove Global Warming! We're all going to DIE!!!

    In other news, sky may (or may not) fall. This is consistent with a climate sensitivity of 4.5Cdeg. So the IPCC predictions are proven, by peer-reviewed science....

    Paris. Because I can....

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two words.

    Agricultural runoff.

    (Cover farm land in bazillions of gallons of chemicals which the rain washes into the soil and thence to the water system and eventually into the sea. And that's without how much of it goes through us - behavioural problems, mood wings, difficulty in paying attention, increased instances of mental illness, weird allergies, weird viruses that hang around for weeks etc).

  13. JC 2

    Smart Fish

    ... all the better to hear Obama coming my pretty...

  14. Kevin Johnston

    Scientific study?

    Would love to know where they found a control group....they did have a control group didn't they?

  15. jake Silver badge

    @AC 12:24

    "mood wings"

    Philosophy will clip an angel's wings. --John Keats(?)

    "difficulty in paying attention"


  16. Charles Manning

    It's sonar

    Just like rock concerts and ipods make the yoof deaf, naval sonar does the same.

    Fish compensate by making bigger ear trumpets.


    [*By using QED, this is very clearly a scientific proof.]

  17. BoldMan


    What evidence has this pillock got that this is ANYTHING to do with CO2 concentrations in the ocean? Acidification of the oceans would surely REDUCE bones - calcium in acid anyone? ;)

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Control group?

    @scientific study

    You can only have a concurrent control group in a controlled experiment. This is a longitudinal study comparing current and past populations. Unless they have a population of bass living in a lab tank with sea water conditions from 1984. I blame underwater sonar and propellers - the fish evolved bigger ear bones to cope with the increasing man-made background noise.

    Mines the one with the NSF application form in the back pocket.

  19. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Oh you youngsters!

    Control group? why step this way youngster into the bowels of the Zoology Dept, in these here drawers are 70 years of sea bass otoliths and over here . . . Or you could simply look up the published data set online, I'm quite certain there will be one. Otoliths have been used for decades to tell how old fish are as they lay down new layers every year, like tree rings. So I expect the enlarged otoliths will have larger spaces between each ring boundary meaning that there will be more measurements than overall size. This is not the first time us boffins will have gathered data from otoliths, of bass or any other species of fish.

    Maybe they are growing larger otoliths to change the range of frequencies they hear. I wonder what sound our nets make as they move through the water . . . Remember these are the ones that keep getting away.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Evolution must be halted at once!

    We must do everything in our power, to halt the evolution of species while we are still ahead.

    (Everyone tell your God(s) to please make it stop.)

  21. Cullen Newsom

    @David England, Charles Manning et al

    No no no, it's because our submarines are more quiet than they used to be. Or it could be because that careless idiot Lewis Page dropped his damn wristwatch in the Gareloch (you've keeeeled us all!).

  22. g e

    "She turned me into a newt!"

    I got better....

    "fish have evolved to have their bodies the way they are" well how the hell else could it have worked? What a tit.

    Maybe he needs a topup of his ecotard budget and is fishing for cash.

    Can we have a 'We found a witch! May we burn her?' icon for impending heretical comments?? :o)

  23. Palladius

    @ BoldMan, Dodgy Geezer, etc

    Come on guys, how difficult is it to read the study for yourself? It took me five minutes to find the abstract and the author's summary on their website, the latter of which is even linked from the Reg article.

    Rather than simply make bold assertions of what carbon dioxide concentrations will 'surely' do to fish, the authors have investigated the matter. Although David England makes excellent points about longitudinal studies, it appears that this was a controlled experiment. The authors grew seperate populations of sebass, one in water with a high carbon dioxide concentration, which is certainly how I'd go about it.

    Interestingly, the authors note that this finding was contrary to their expectations.

  24. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Science is not a religion. Kick the dogma-based approach out.

    "The authors grew seperate populations of sebass, one in water with a high carbon dioxide concentration, which is certainly how I'd go about it."

    Yes, but the man-caused global warming is supposed to originate from elevated CO2 in the atmosphere, causing a warming and a liberation of CO2 from the heated oceans (CO2 is much much less soluble in warm than in cold water). So the "man-made CO2-caused global warming" dogma (I'm not conviced but let's admit it) infers that an elevated CO2 concentration in the air causes, and is fuelled by, a decreased concentration of CO2 in the oceans. So man-made CO2-induced global warming should lead to decreased bone size... waidaminit, it doesn't fit so well now... Where does this study stand is not clear to me... Or rather, it's very clear: it's the "we have an interesting observation that can be published in a small paper. Let's crowbar a bullshit reference to "global warming" in, and make it a /Science/ instead!" syndrome. Good old sheeple-driven American science...

    It stinks like self-fuelled opportunistic frenzy. Let's jump on the trend! The non-proven dogma must be true, don't you dare to publish contradictory evidence!

    You know what, the more I know of the American reasearch system, the more I think Al Quaeda, Fred W. Phelps and friends are actually quite open-minded, comparatively.

    If someone's looking for me, I'll be busy committing suicide in the basement. Poor science.

  25. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Oh, and a@ Palladium specifically

    "Interestingly, the authors note that this finding was contrary to their expectations."

    Yep. Thats the scientists's way of saying "I'm not biased, honest". You can find the same (or equivalent) in every other scientific paper. Though it's a good thing when it's true, it has been faked so much that it doesn't mean anything anymore.

  26. Grant

    @ ElReg!comments!Pierre, Dodgy Geezer, etc

    The El reg article, let along the Science article, doesn't even mention global warming. I think your showing your strategy to just deny anything you don't like the sound off without any consideration of facts a little obviously in your comments.

  27. Mephistro

    Don't worry

    Most of us are safe. Clearly, this only affects a small number of fish and certain Royal Family members.

  28. Anonymous John

    Probably pollution AND Global warming.

    They're so full of mercury that they get longer when the sea warms up.


  29. TeeCee Gold badge

    Re: Evolution must be halted at once!

    Great idea, but with a slight snag.

    Anyone who actually has the ear of God* is going to be convinced that any mention of the e-word in conversation is going to be a lightning bolt** moment.

    *or who's deluded enough to think they have anyway.

    **plague of boils / swine flu / mutant sea bass attack / casting into abyss / whatever....

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Sorry didnt you know.

    We've had the great red threat, we had terrorists, the new threat to everyone is.. erm Everyone.

    Humans are now bad, so now we have a constant new enermy that we must spend tax money and wage war on at every opportunity, and if you disagree with any of this data you must hate the planet you damned planet killer.

    So expect to see more and more articles like this, regardless is they have any value or not.

    If it ever gets rescinded like alot of the climate stuff has its very unlikely you will hear about it except in scientific magazines, just so they dont upset the over all theme that you are bad and we need to get rid of you.

  31. JohnG

    Has anyone told Noddy?

    He would want to know his best mate has been turned into a fish.

  32. Colin 4


    "anything that departs significantly from normality is an abnormality". Well, no shit. Really ?

  33. Palladius

    @ ElReg!comments!Pierre

    From what I've read, that's certainly not the current understanding of carbon dioxide induced climate change. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide will lead to increased oceanic concentration of carbon dioxide. The oceans tend to act as a buffer to increased carbon dioxide production, and a great deal is sequestered long-term in the deep ocean. The worry is that the the oceans can only absorb a small fraction of the increased output, so extra carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere.

    Massive releases of carbon dioxide through decreased solubility due to raised temperatures is much more likely to be an effect of anthropogenic climate change than a cause, a final nail in the coffin, if you will.

    On a personal note, there doesn't appear to be a lot to support your rather fervent and disingenous attack on this paper and it's authors. In my experience, scientists do not include trite little caveats just to prove they're 'not biased'. Thankfully for the scientific community, a lot of scientists are at least as clever as you, and I imagine one or two would see through such a ploy. They included the note because they expected the ear bones to be smaller. I would have expected them to be smaller. Boldman (above) expected them to be smaller.

    Honestly, what motivates such an exaggerated attack on such an innocuous and (frankly) rather uninteresting research observation?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    High power sonars responsible?

    US Navy has been testing high power sonars since early 90s. I wonder if this has more to do with the subject than the rise if the CO2.

  35. The elephant in the room

    Captain Birdseye's new product range

    Using proven fish finger technology the next step is surely fish ears in breadcrumbs.

  36. Joe User

    Evolution in action

    Next thing you know, fish will sprout legs! Oh, wait, that's already been done....

  37. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    @ Palladium

    Sure, the ocean acts as a buffer for CO2, in the long run, in the sense that a lot of it gets trapped as calcium carbonate (think billion tons of tiny seashells). But in the short run, the surface water is actually mostly saturated in CO2, and an increase in the temperature (be it from man-made CO2, methane, solar flares or alien death-rays) should cause a massive release of CO2 -and methane, by the way- from the warmer oceans (in turn, fuelling the warming through greenhouse effect). So if we assume that there is a man-made CO2-induced global warming (which is quite consensually admitted, but unproven), then an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere leads to a decrease of CO2 in the oceans.

    Of course, if you scrap the "CO2-caused warming", and assume that an increase in atmospheric CO2 does not cause a significant warming, then there might be an increase in dissolved CO2 as the increased partial pressure in the air will displace the equilibrium. So basically you can have "man-made CO2 causes a global warming" *or* "man-made CO2 creates monster sea-bass with Prince Charles' ears" but having both would be difficult to explain

    "scientists do not include trite little caveats just to prove they're 'not biased'."

    Oh yes we do. It's actually common practice, and it's a rather good thing. The idea is to ask yourself "OK, what could have been wrong with my experiment" and examine (and eliminate, through experiments or reasonning) all the reason why you could have a borked result. The problem is, more and more people just find one reason why they could have expected the contrary, and just use that to infer that they *must* have done things right. Hence my jadedness. I'm not saying that it's bad, I'm just saying that it's been misused to the point of being meaningless.

    "a lot of scientists are at least as clever as you,"

    I think so, too.

    "Honestly, what motivates such an exaggerated attack on such an innocuous and (frankly) rather uninteresting research observation?"

    Must be jealousy. Or maybe I'm tired of the artificial sexying-up of scientific subjects by the crowbaring-in of social issues. And I think it's a rather interesting observation, since you mention it. I for one would have expected the opposite, if only for pH reasons. But then again, pH is (quite) easy to regulate, and bicarbonate may very well be the limiting factor for oolith formation in the sea bass (a bit like how calcium is the limiting factor for women), so it might have been quite expectable...

    Anyway, I stand by my guns, the scientific community is behaving more and more in a cult-like, "don't question the Dogma" manner, especially in the US, but also quite everywhere else to a (sometimes) smaller extent. And it's very painful when viewed from inside.

    Random icon.

  38. ElReg!comments!Pierre


    About this "bone in acid" thing... "calcium" (I think you mean cacium carbonate btw) is not "soluble" in acid. In an acidic aqueous environment, the carbonate reacts with the protons to produce CO2 and water (a phenomenon known as "effervescence"), hence liberating Ca++ (1).That's when the increased partial pressure in CO2 in the water can be reduced (bubblebobblebabblepshhhhiiiit). As for what would happen in saturating CO2 conditions, the mind boggles.

    (1) -yes, bootnote of the bootnote, I know, right?- it looks (to the distant and untrained eye) as "solubility" -the calcium carbonate "melts" in the acidic water-, but the mechanism is rather different. Solubility is when, let's say, NaCl -salt- gets dissociated in Na+ and Cl- ions in water.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    its all true

    global warming can be proven easily,

    at 7:30AM this morning it was 9C its now 9:30 and 18C therefore by midnight it should be hotter than the sun round here.

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