What fish species are singing along the southern Australian continental shelf?

Lauren Amy Hawkins – laurenhawkins799@gmail.com

Centre for Marine Science and Technology, Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia, 6102, Australia

Benjamin Saunders
School of Molecular and Life Sciences
Curtin University
Bentley, Western Australia, Australia

Christine Erbe, Iain Parnum, Chong Wei, and Robert McCauley
Centre for Marine Science and Technology
Curtin University
Bentley, Western Australia, Australia

Popular version of 5aAB6 – The search to identify the fish species chorusing along the southern Australian continental shelf
Presented at the 185 ASA Meeting
Read the abstract at https://eppro01.ativ.me/web/page.php?page=session&project=ASAFALL23&id=3581747

Unknown fish species are singing in large aggregations along almost the entire southern Australian continental shelf on a daily basis, yet we still have little idea of what species these fish are or what this means to them. These singing aggregations are known as fish choruses, they occur when many individuals call continuously for a prolonged period, producing a cacophony of sound that can be detected kilometres away. It is difficult to identify fish species that chorus in offshore marine environments. The current scientific understanding of the sound-producing abilities of all fish species is limited and offshore marine environments are challenging to access. This project aimed to undertake a pilot study which attempted to identify the source species of three fish chorus types (shown below) detected along the southern Australian continental shelf off Bremer Bay in Western Australia from previously collected acoustic recordings.

Each fish chorus type occurred over the hours of sunset, dominating the soundscape within unique frequency bands. Have a listen to the audio file below to get a feeling for how noisy the waters off Bremer Bay become as the sun goes down and the fish start singing. The activity of each fish chorus type changed over time, indicating seasonality in presence and intensity. Chorus I and II demonstrated a peak in calling presence and intensity over late winter to early summer, while Chorus III demonstrated peak calling over late winter to late spring. This informed the sampling methodology of the pilot study, and in December 2019, underwater acoustic recorders and unbaited video recorders were deployed simultaneously on the seafloor along the continental shelf off Bremer Bay to attempt to collect evidence of any large aggregations of fish species present during the production of the fish choruses. Chorus I and the start of Chorus II were detected on the acoustic recordings, corresponding with video recordings of large aggregations of Red Snapper (Centroberyx gerrardi) and Deep Sea Perch (Nemadactylus macropterus). A spectrogram of the acoustic recordings and snapshots from the corresponding underwater video recordings are shown below.

Click here to play audio

The presence of large aggregations of Red Snapper present while Chorus I was also present was of particular interest to the authors. Previous dissections of this species had revealed that Red Snapper possessed anatomical features that could support sound production through the vibration of their swimbladder using specialised muscles. To explore this further, computerized tomography (CT) scans of several Red Snapper specimens were undertaken. We are currently undertaking 3D modelling of the sound-producing mechanisms of this species to compute the resonance frequency of the fish to better understand if this species could be producing Chorus I.

Listening to fish choruses can tell us about where these fish live, what habitats they use, their spawning behaviour, their feeding behaviour, can indicate their biodiversity, and in certain circumstances, can determine the local abundance of a fish population. For this information to be applied to marine spatial planning and fish species management, it is necessary to identify which fish species are producing these choruses. This pilot study was the first step in an attempt to develop an effective methodology that could be used to address the challenging task of identifying the source species of fish choruses present in offshore environments. We recommend that future studies take an integrated approach to species identification, including the use of arrays of hydrophones paired with underwater video recorders.

Turning Up Ocean Temperature & Volume – Underwater Soundscapes in a Changing Climate

Freeman Lauren – lauren.a.freeman3.civ@us.navy.mil

Instagram: @laur.freeman

NUWC Division Newport, NAVSEA, Newport, RI, 02841, United States

Dr. Lauren A. Freeman, Dr. Daniel Duane, Dr. Ian Rooney from NUWC Division Newport and
Dr. Simon E. Freeman from ARPA-E

Popular version of 1aAB1 – Passive Acoustic Monitoring of Biological Soundscapes in a Changing Climate
Presented at the 184 ASA Meeting
Read the abstract at https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0018023

Climate change is impacting our oceans and marine ecosystems across the globe. Passive acoustic monitoring of marine ecosystems has been shown to provide a window into the heartbeat of an ecosystem, its relative health, and even information such as how many whales or fish are present in a given day or month. By studying marine soundscapes, we collate all of the ambient noise at an underwater location and attribute parts of the soundscape to wind and waves, to boats, and to different types of biology. Long term biological soundscape studies allow us to track changes in ecosystems with a single, small, instrument called a hydrophone. I’ve been studying coral reef soundscapes for nearly a decade now, and am starting to have time series long enough to begin to see how climate change affects soundscapes. Some of the most immediate and pronounced impacts of climate change on shallow ocean soundscapes are evident in varying levels of ambient biological sound. We found a ubiquitous trend at research sites in both the tropical Pacific (Hawaii) and sub-tropical Atlantic (Bermuda) that warmer water tends to be associated with higher ambient noise levels. Different frequency bands provide information about different ecological processes (such as fish calls, invertebrate activity, and algal photosynthesis). The response of each of these processes to temperature changes is not uniform, however each type of ambient noise increases in warmer water. At some point, ocean warming and acidification will fundamentally change the ecological structure of a shallow water environment. This would also be reflected in a fundamentally different soundscape, as described by peak frequencies and sound intensity. While I have not monitored the phase shift of an ecosystem at a single site, I have documented and shown that healthy coral reefs with high levels of parrotfish and reef fish have fundamentally different soundscapes, as reflected in their acoustic signature at different frequency bands, than coral reefs that are degraded and overgrown with fleshy macroalgae. This suggests that long term soundscape monitoring could also track these ecological phase shifts under climate stress and other impacts to marine ecosystems such as overfishing.

A healthy coral reef research site in Hawaii with vibrant corals, many reef fish, and copious nooks and crannies for marine invertebrates to make their homes.
Soundscape segmented into three frequency bands capturing fish vocalizations (blue), parrotfish scrapes (red), and invertebrate clicks along with algal photosynthesis bubbles (yellow). All features show an increase in ambient noise level (PSD, y-axis) with increasing ocean temperature at each site studied in Hawaii.