According to FishSounds.net, fish enjoy lively conversations over the coral reefs. (Photo by Kieran Cox)

According to FishSounds.net, fish enjoy lively conversations over the coral reefs. (Photo by Kieran Cox)

University of Victoria researcher helps build global inventory of fish grunts, squeals

Research helps better understand how noise impacts marine life

Fish make unique and entertaining noises, from guttural grunts to high-pitched squeals.

Underwater noise is a vital part of marine ecosystems, and while fish are the largest and most diverse group of sound-producing vertebrates in water, until now there was no record of which fish make sound, let alone what individual species sound like.

A University of Victoria researcher is among those responsible for a crucial new global inventory of those grunts and squeals. FishSounds.net is the first digital space where the data can be freely accessed or contributed to, according to a news release.

It was created by an international group of researchers from UVic, the University of Florida, Universidade de Sao Paulo, and Marine Environmental Research Infrastructure for Data Integration and Application Network (MERIDIAN). To create the site, researchers reviewed more than 3,000 documents and extracted data from 834 studies to determine 989 species produce active sounds. MERIDIAN team members used the information to build the website as part of a Canada Foundation for Innovation grant.

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Kieran Cox co-authored the published article about fish sounds and their value while completing his PhD in marine biology at UVic.

“This data is absolutely critical to our efforts. Without it, we were having a one-sided conversation about how noise impacts marine life. Now we can better understand the contributions fish make to soundscapes and examine which species may be most impacted by noise pollution,” Cox said.

He recently began a Liber Ero post-doctoral collaboration with UVic professor and Liber Ero chair for fisheries research, Francis Juanes, that aims to integrate marine bioacoustics into the conservation of Canada’s oceans. The Liber Ero program is devoted to promoting applied and evidence-based conservation in Canada.

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The UVic research team includes Cox, Juanes and Rodney Rountree.

The global inventory allows users to search the data by taxa, sound, region and other filters. Juanes said the lack of a database on fish acoustics has been a limitation in the field of aquatic soundscapes. “We hope that FishSounds.net will transform the way researchers and the public think about ocean noise.”

c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca


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