Source: Earth Island Journal
Author: Claire Hamlett
New research reveals that the ability to make sound is a far more widespread trait among fish than previously thought. It turns out that nearly 29,000 species are likely to have the ability — with big implications for what we know about their lives. The clamor of the underwater world, it turns out, is likely just as diverse as it is in rainforests and wetlands.
The new study also raises some concerning questions. If sound communication plays a role in how so many fish reproduce, defend resources, or avoid predators, then, says Aaron Rice, lead author of a new paper in the journal Ichthyology & Herpetology, “the widespread extent of human noise pollution in the oceans may actually have some serious consequences with what it means for fish ecology.”
A 2018 review of 115 studies into human-caused underwater noise pollution catalogs a long list of harms to dozens of fish species, including “compromised communication, orientation, feeding, parental care, and prey detection, and increased aggression.” It can also “lead to less group cohesion, avoidance of important habitat, fewer offspring, and higher death rates . . . poor growth rates, decreased immunity, and low reproductive rates,” as well as hearing loss and abnormal anatomical development.
Though noise pollution is already pervasive in the ocean, it could still get worse and reach new depths as marine industrialization increases, including through deep-sea mining. “We know so little about these deep-sea areas,” says Miyoko Sakashita, who campaigns for better legislative protections for marine life as the oceans director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But it definitely seems like the mining itself, which is just scraping the bottom of the ocean, will be not only noisy but also destroy those deep-sea habitats.”