- Conference date: 21–25 May 2012
- Location: Beijing, China
Marine animals use sound for communication, navigation, predator avoidance, and prey detection. Thus the rise in acoustic energy associated with increasing human activity in the ocean has potential to impact the lives of marine animals. Thirty years ago marine bioacoustics primarily focused on evaluating effects of human-generated sound on hearing and behavior by testing captive animals and visually observing wild animals. Since that time rapidly changing electronic and computing technologies have yielded three tools that revolutionized how bioacousticians study marine animals. These tools are (1) portable systems for measuring electrophysiological auditory evoked potentials, (2) miniaturized tags equipped with positioning sensors and acoustic recording devices for continuous short-term acoustical observation rather than intermittent visual observation, and (3) passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) systems for remote long-term acoustic observations at specific locations. The beauty of these breakthroughs is their direct applicability to wild animals in natural habitats rather than only to animals held in captivity. Hearing capabilities of many wild species including polar bears, beaked whales, and reef fishes have now been assessed by measuring their auditory evoked potentials. Miniaturized acoustic tags temporarily attached to an animal to record its movements and acoustic environment have revealed the acoustic foraging behavior of sperm and beaked whales. Now tags are being adapted to fishes in effort to understand their behavior in the presence of noise. Moving and static PAM systems automatically detect and characterize biological and physical features of an ocean area without adding any acoustic energy to the environment. PAM is becoming a powerful technique for understanding and managing marine habitats. This paper will review the influence of these transformative tools on the knowledge base of marine bioacoustics and elucidation of relationships between marine animals and their acoustic environment, leading to a new, rapidly growing field of marine acoustic ecology.
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