Coral reef soundscapes may not be detectable far from the reef. Academic Article uri icon


  • Biological sounds produced on coral reefs may provide settlement cues to marine larvae. Sound fields are composed of pressure and particle motion, which is the back and forth movement of acoustic particles. Particle motion (i.e., not pressure) is the relevant acoustic stimulus for many, if not most, marine animals. However, there have been no field measurements of reef particle motion. To address this deficiency, both pressure and particle motion were recorded at a range of distances from one Hawaiian coral reef at dawn and mid-morning on three separate days. Sound pressure attenuated with distance from the reef at dawn. Similar trends were apparent for particle velocity but with considerable variability. In general, average sound levels were low and perhaps too faint to be used as an orientation cue except very close to the reef. However, individual transient sounds that exceeded the mean values, sometimes by up to an order of magnitude, might be detectable far from the reef, depending on the hearing abilities of the larva. If sound is not being used as a long-range cue, it might still be useful for habitat selection or other biological activities within a reef.

publication date

  • August 23, 2016