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Manatees can probably hear which directions boats approach from
Date:6/11/2009

yed the broadband sounds, of 0.2, 0.5, 1 to 3s, from each speaker at random while monitoring the animals' responses.

One of the manatees, Buffett, successfully identified the source of the broadband sounds with almost 90% accuracy, while Hugh did slightly less well. The team was also surprised that the manatees were able to locate the sources of both the 4kHz and 16kHz tones, although the team only tested the animals with the longest of the two tonal notes, as the animals had shown signs of frustration when they heard these sounds.

So how are the animals able to localize sounds? Colbert explains that many terrestrial animals use the time difference between a sound arriving at their two ears to find the source. However, this time difference is probably extremely short in aquatic animals, as sounds travel 5 times faster in water than in air. Animals also use the intensity difference as the sound arrives at each ear, which is more pronounced in high-pitched noises, to pinpoint the source. Colbert suspects that the manatees use combinations of these and other cues to help them localize sounds, as they were able to locate the sources of high- and low-pitched sounds equally well.

Crucially, the animals can probably hear approaching speed boats and tell which direction they are coming from, which is an essential piece of information for conservation organisations as they battle to save this gentle giant.


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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn@biologists.com
44-122-342-5525
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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