North Sea soundscapes from a fish perspective : Directional patterns in particle motion and masking potential from anthropogenic noise

Rogers, Peter; Debusschere, Elisabeth; Haan, Dick de; Martin, Bruce; Slabbekoorn, Hans


The aquatic world of animals is an acoustic world as sound is the most prominent sensory capacity to extract information about the environment for many aquatic species. Fish can hear particle motion, and a swim bladder potentially adds the additional capacity to sense sound pressure. Combining these capacities allows them to sense direction, distance, spectral content, and detailed temporal patterns. Both sound pressure and particle motion were recorded in a shallow part of the North Sea before and during exposure to a full-scale airgun array from an experimental seismic survey. Distinct amplitude fluctuations and directional patterns in the ambient noise were found to be fluctuating in phase with the tidal cycles and coming from distinct directions. It was speculated that the patterns may be determined by distant sources associated with large rivers and nearby beaches. Sounds of the experimental seismic survey were above the ambient conditions for particle acceleration up to 10 km from the source, at least as detectable for the measurement device, and up to 31‚ÄČkm for the sound pressure. These results and discussion provide a fresh perspective on the auditory world of fishes and a shift in the understanding about potential ranges over which they may have access to biologically relevant cues and be masked by anthropogenic noise.