Dr Simpson said: "This study provides evidence that reef generated sound contains a real richness of information. This would provide fish and invertebrates with the cues they need to assess the quality of potential settlement sites before they can see them, a bit like wandering around a music festival eavesdropping on different bands before choosing where to pitch your tent. It may even provide the information that enables some fish to return to the very reef on which they were originally spawned."
The study also highlights the potential for using audio recordings to monitor the health of reefs. Usually, scientific assessment of reef health requires teams of scuba divers and huge quantities of equipment and so is costly, time consuming and difficult in remote areas. In this study, scientists dropped a cable off the side of the boat with a hydrophone (underwater recording device) attached. A two-minute recording contained enough information to distinguish between reefs. This is a very encouraging find for the development of acoustic recordings as ecological survey or monitoring tools.
The team are hoping that their findings will prompt other scientists to investigate reef sound further.
Emma Kennedy said: "Investigation of the acoustic properties of reefs is a relatively new area of science but already we're realising that there's more to underwater noises than just whale and dolphin communication! Reefs may be broadcasting a lot of information out into the sea that both humans and marine animals could use. We're hoping that our findings will encourage more research into this area, and are excited this might lead to the development of new tools for assessing reef health."
|Contact: Caroline Clancy|
University of Bristol