Importance of Sound for Underwater Life

Most sea creatures communicate with each other by using sound since the speed of sound in the sea can be five times faster than in the air. Therefore, sound can be thought of as the best way to transmit information.

Dolphins, whales, sharks, and many organisms use sound and they use sound to detect their prey position and identification, breeding, and foraging. Most of the unconscious actions of people affected marine organisms’ sea life and caused serious changes in their biology.

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Figure-1. Effects of Different Environmental Factors on Marine Organisms. (Image Credit: Greater Farallones / NOAA)

Sound levels, frequency, and duration of exposure can affect marine organisms’ biology and can cause hormonal changes, forcing animals to deviate from their migration routes. and suppress their immunity.

In my internship in Croatia, I realized that dolphins can change their feeding activities depending on changes in sound levels. For example, the action of trollers in the Adriatic Sea shaped bottlenose dolphins’ feeding activities. They can recognize the sound levels of trollers and understand that there are foods around them.

Sound is also very sensitive to whales’ daily activities and sometimes whales can’t recognize ships coming towards them because of noise pollution and some accidents can happen. After these accidents, whales can get wounded. Noise pollution can alter marine organisms’ behavior and can cause some genetic and epigenetic changes in marine organisms.

These changes can be inherited by the next generations. As a result of this, some abnormalities in these organisms’ behavior and their life can occur permanently.

Therefore, a better understanding of noise pollution and its effects on sea creatures is required. Understanding of noise pollution can be improved by analyzing underwater noise with useful tools such as hydrophones and different software apps.

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Figure-2. Underwater Sound can be recorded with hydrophone. (Image Credit:

Sound underwater can be recorded with the hydrophone and it can be analysed with different tools. Sounds are very unique and they can be differentiated in each species. These changes can be detected easily by using software tools.

It is also interesting that sounds can be even different between populations of the same species.

For example, Humpback whales songs are identifiable from each different population. Sound underwater can be analyzed deeply and we can understand the effects of noise pollution on marine organisms’ physiology and reproduction.

What should we do?

There are a lot of things that should be considered to make sea life better. Firstly, the number of marine protected areas should be increased and especially dolphins and whales should be monitored regularly since they are very sensitive to noise pollution.

We can monitor them and analyze the changes in their sound. In this way, we may able to understand how noise pollution is serious for sea creatures.

Secondly, shipping and fishing activities should be restricted since they can alter sea creatures’ activities directly. Shipping and fishing should be banned from some protected and sensitive areas and their activities need to be regulated with necessary laws.

Also, responsible institutions should give essential lessons and guidelines to all of the fishermen about noise pollution and its effects on organisms.

We should understand how serious a threat noise pollution is for marine organisms. They can disrupt their breeding, feeding, and foraging. We can detect the source of human–caused noise pollution by using hydrophones and different environmental monitoring technologies.

By doing this, we can learn more about noise levels in different ocean areas and how those levels can change over time. We should use monitoring technologies more and pay more attention to marine conservation. These creatures do not disrupt our life, neither should we.

Beğen  5

Moleküler Biyoloji ve genetik bölümü öğrencisi, Dünyadaki Mars Projesi topluluk gönüllüsü, MoEP astrobiyoloji takımı üyesi ve yazarı. (Molecular Biology and Genetics student, MoEP volunteer, MoEP astrobiology team member and author.)

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