MEPS 509:57-70 (2014)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10917

Soundscape variation from a larval perspective: the case for habitat-associated sound as a settlement cue for weakly swimming estuarine larvae

Ashlee Lillis*, David B. Eggleston, DelWayne R. Bohnenstiehl

Department of Marine, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695-8208, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Settlement is a critical phase in the life history of most benthic marine organisms and has important implications for their survival and reproductive success, and ultimately for population and community dynamics. Larval encounter with settlement habitats is likely facilitated through the use of habitat-specific physical and chemical cues, but the scales over which particular habitat-related environmental cues may operate are rarely measured. In Pamlico Sound, North Carolina, USA we used passively drifting acoustic recorders to measure the variation in habitat-related underwater sound, a potential broad-scale settlement cue, at spatiotemporal scales relevant to dispersing bivalve larvae in the estuary. Sound levels increased by up to 30 dB during passage over oyster reefs compared to off-reef soft bottom areas, and sound level fluctuations in the 2000 to 23000 Hz frequency range closely corresponded to the presence of oyster reef patches below drifters, indicating that sound characteristics could reliably provide a signal of benthic habitat type to planktonic larvae. Using these soundscape measurements and the known descent capabilities of oyster larvae, we demonstrate with a conceptual model that response to habitat-related sound cues is a feasible mechanism for enhanced larval encounter with settlement substrate.


KEY WORDS: Soundscape ecology · Larval habitat cues · Acoustic patterns · Hydrophone drifters · Oyster reefs · Passive acoustics


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Cite this article as: Lillis A, Eggleston DB, Bohnenstiehl DR (2014) Soundscape variation from a larval perspective: the case for habitat-associated sound as a settlement cue for weakly swimming estuarine larvae. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 509:57-70. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps10917

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