Weatherwatch: wildlife calls change volume as hurricanes pass

Recent research has recorded how creatures modified their calls in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria – with some surprising results

It’s not just humans that hunker down when a hurricane arrives; insects, birds and shrimps do too. But for fish a hurricane is a chance for a party and an opportunity to make a lot of noise, as new underwater recordings show. Back in March 2017 Ben Gottesman from Purdue University in Indiana, USA, and his colleagues placed sound recording devices in coastal forests and amongst coral reefs on the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico’s southwest coast, to monitor how animal vocalisations change over time. By chance Hurricanes Irma and Maria swept through in September 2017.

The recordings revealed how birds and insects became much quieter for up to three weeks following each storm. The clicks of the normally noisy snapping shrimp went quiet for a good few days. By contrast the fish turned up the volume. Gottesman and his colleagues, who presented their findings at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland last week speculate that the increased murkiness of the water following the hurricanes may have sent shrimps scuttling back to their burrows to clean them out, whilst fish may have been taking advantage of the added gloom to sing for a mate, safe in the knowledge that predators would have a harder time spotting them.

Contributor

Kate Ravilious

The GuardianTramp

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