Baby corals dance their way home
Dr Steve Simpson, Senior Researcher in the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences discovered several years ago that baby reef fish use sound as a cue to find coral reefs, but was amazed when his Dutch collaborators in Curaçao started finding that coral larvae – which must quickly find a safe place to land and establish a colony or they will die – can do the same thing. The team designed a 'choice chamber' (a device that offers small invertebrates two or more contrasting conditions and allows them to move freely towards the one they prefer), put coral larvae into it and played them recordings of a coral reef. The results clearly showed that the flea-sized larvae were strongly attracted to the noise as they seek a suitable habitat.
Coral larvae look like tiny eggs covered in hairs, and come from the same group of animals (Cnidaria) that also includes sea anemones. How these simple creatures detect sound is unknown, but Dr Simpson said: "At close range sound stirs up water molecules, and this could waggle tiny hair cells on the surface of the larvae, providing vital directional information for baby corals."
Corals aggregate to form vast reefs, which are now one of the most threatened ecosystems in the world. Due to global warming and ocean acidification, some experts have suggested coral reefs are now on Death Row. Understanding how these vulnerable animals complete their life-cycle is essential to ensure appropriate management.
Since corals, like fish, respond to reef sounds then the masking effects of human noise pollution in coral environments is of extra concern. "Anthropogenic noise has increased dramatically in recent years, with small boats, shipping, drilling, pile driving and seismic testing now sometimes drowning out the natural sounds of fish and snapping shrimps," Dr Simpson said.
Source: University of Bristol
- New evidence highlights threat to Caribbean coral reef growthTue, 29 Jan 2013, 13:34:01 EST
- Taking the pulse of coral reefsMon, 20 Sep 2010, 11:37:36 EDT
- Extinction predictor 'will help protect coral reefs'Tue, 15 Feb 2011, 10:02:30 EST
- Distressed damsels stress coral reefsWed, 26 May 2010, 19:22:35 EDT
- Distressed damsels stress coral reefsWed, 26 May 2010, 19:22:37 EDT
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Outlook is grim for mammals and birds as human population grows
- Mars had oxygen-rich atmosphere 4,000 million years ago
- The contribution of particulate matter to forest decline
- Scientists find new source of versatility so 'floppy' proteins can get things done
- An environmentally friendly battery made from wood
- Even with defects, graphene is strongest material in the world
- Detection of the cosmic gamma ray horizon: Measures all the light in the universe since the Big Bang
- Genetic engineering alters mosquitoes' sense of smell
- Allosaurus fed more like a falcon than a crocodile, new study finds
- 'Popcorn' particle pathways promise better lithium-ion batteries