Fish are drawn to the sounds of the reef


Marine fish which spend months floating around among the plankton as larvae are drawn back to coral reefs by the sounds they produce.

Scientists set up a series of 24 artificial reefs in shallow waters near Lizard Island, about 150 miles/240 km north of Cairn in Queensland, Australia, using dead coral.

Half of the artificial reefs were left as normal, but the other half were rigged up to an underwater sound system which pumped out the dulcet tones of clicking fish and snapping shrimps.

Research published in the journal Science this month by British scientists, headed by Dr Stephen Simpson of the University of Edinburgh, showed that larval marine fish were particularly drawn to the artificial reefs with the reef soundtrack playing.

Simpson told Nature: "We knew that they were attracted to light traps. But no one had shown that the fish located sound and could be encouraged to settle depending on it."

Simpson has suggested that the technique could be put to use in conservation.

It may also have implications for collecting marine fishes. There is a very high level of natural losses among the larvae of marine fish, which some suppliers have realised may be a way to sustainably take fish from the wild.

Practical Fishkeeping has previously reported on a company who has developed a technique for rearing larval marine fishes in captivity and growing them on for sale in the trade. The removal of small numbers of larval fish would have little effect on the reef since natural losses are already very high, anyway.

For more details see the paper: Simpson, S., Meekan, M., Montgomers, J., McCauley, R. and A. Jeffs. (2005) - Homeward Sound. Science. 308, 221 (2005).