MEPS 401:21-29 (2010)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08451

Localised coastal habitats have distinct underwater sound signatures

C. A. Radford1,*, J. A. Stanley1, C. T. Tindle2, J. C. Montgomery1, A. G. Jeffs1

1Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland, PO Box 349, Warkworth 0941, New Zealand
2Department of Physics, University of Auckland, PO Box 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand

ABSTRACT: There is evidence that ambient underwater sound is used by some pelagic larval reef fishes and decapods as a guide to direct them toward coastal areas. It would be advantageous to these organisms if they were also able to use sound to remotely identify suitable settlement habitats. However, it is unknown whether different coastal habitats produce different sounds that would be capable of providing distinctive cues for larvae. This study identified marked differences in the characteristics of ambient underwater sound at 3 distinct types of coastal habitat: a macroalgal-dominated reef, a sea urchin-dominated reef, and a sandy beach. The sea urchin-dominated reef habitat produced sound that was significantly more intense overall in a biologically important frequency band (800 to 2500 Hz), compared with that from macroalgal-dominated reefs and beach habitats. The sound produced by snapping shrimp also exhibited marked differences among habitat types, with the sea urchin-dominated reef having significantly more snaps than the macroalgal-dominated reef or beach habitat. Many of the differences in the sound produced by the 2 reef habitats became more apparent at dusk compared with noon. This study provides evidence that there are significant differences in the spectral and temporal composition of ambient sound associated with different coastal habitat types over relatively short spatial scales. An acoustic cue that conveys both directional and habitat quality information that is transmitted considerable distances offshore would have the potential to be of immense value to the pelagic larval stage of a coastal organism attempting to remotely locate a suitable habitat in which to settle.

KEY WORDS: Habitat type · Acoustic cue · Ambient underwater sound · Evening chorus · Larval orientation · Sea urchins · Snapping shrimp

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Cite this article as: Radford CA, Stanley JA, Tindle CT, Montgomery JC, Jeffs AG (2010) Localised coastal habitats have distinct underwater sound signatures. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 401:21-29

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