How do baby coral find a new home in the open ocean? They listen—very closely—for reef sounds.
Scientists at the University of Bristol in England had already discovered in the last few years that baby fish who live among coral use sound to find the reefs. So they decided to check out the coral larvae themselves. These are tiny creatures, the size of a flea.
The researchers created so-called choice chambers. When the chambers were silent, the larvae floated about, equally distributed. But when the scientists played sounds of reefs, featuring the murmurs of fish and crustaceans, the larvae swarmed toward the speakers.
What’s even more interesting: fish larvae have anatomical features for detecting sound. But coral larvae have no such features. So how are they hearing? The researchers hypothesize that the sound waves are intercepted by cilia—hairlike structures—on the larvae. The work was published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE. [Mark J. A. Vermeij et al., http://bit.ly/90MoxM]
Here’s why this is important. Coral reefs around the world are threatened. Coral larvae could be deterred by noise from human sources. So managing noise pollution could be one more angle in the effort to save the reefs.
[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]