The effect of underwater sounds on shark behaviour

Open Access Peer Reviewed Publication 2019

Scientific Reports

The effect of sound on the behaviour of sharks has not been investigated since the 1970s. Sound is, however, an important sensory stimulus underwater, as it can spread in all directions quickly and propagate further than any other sensory cue. We used a baited underwater camera rig to record the behavioural responses of eight species of sharks (seven reef and coastal shark species and the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias) to the playback of two distinct sound stimuli in the wild: an orca call sequence and an artificially generated sound. When sounds were playing, reef and coastal sharks were less numerous in the area, were responsible for fewer interactions with the baited test rigs, and displayed less ‘inquisitive’ behaviour, compared to during silent control trials. White sharks spent less time around the baited camera rig when the artificial sound was presented, but showed no significant difference in behaviour in response to orca calls. The use of the presented acoustic stimuli alone is not an effective deterrent for C. carcharias. The behavioural response of reef sharks to sound raises concern about the effects of anthropogenic noise on these taxa.

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