Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Manatee hearing good enough to sense approaching motorboats

12.04.2012
Grazing sea grass along the subtropical Florida coast, manatees would seem to have a peaceful life. But motorboats and other watercraft can injure the mammals, sometimes shattering their ribcages or leaving scars from collisions.

Joe Gaspard from the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, USA, explains that many factors put manatees at risk and it isn't clear why the animals are so vulnerable to human activity. For more than 14 years, Mote research has focused on how manatees use their senses to perceive their environment in an effort to understand the factors that put manatees at risk.

Their studies have already shown that manatees' vision is poor, compounded by the turbid and tannic waters where they spend much of their lives. But can manatees hear boats? And can they hear them above the cacophony of sounds in their natural environment? Sound is absorbed less in water than in air, potentially allowing it to travel farther. It also travels five times faster in water than in air, theoretically warning the animals earlier of an approaching threat, Gaspard said. Teaming up with Gordon Bauer, Roger Reep and David Mann, and a group of trainers from the aquarium, Gaspard tested the hearing of two resident manatees, Buffett and Hugh – the world's only manatees trained to participate in behavioural research and husbandry procedures – to find out what they are capable of hearing. The discovery, published in The Journal of Experimental Biology at http://jeb.biologists.org, indicates that manatees can hear within the frequency range where boats operate but lead to new questions about why manatees remain at risk.

'Buffett and Hugh are very cooperative and picked up on the elements of the study quickly', remembers Gaspard, who worked with Kim Dziuk, Adrienne Cardwell and LaToshia Read to train the animals to swim down to a listening station 1 m beneath the surface. Switching on a light to indicate to the animals that a test was about to start, the team then trained the manatees to touch a yellow response paddle in return for a tasty fruit or vegetable snack when they heard a sound. They also trained the manatees to stay in place (in return for another snack) when they heard nothing. Once Hugh and Buffett had got the task in hand, the team tested their hearing by selecting a particular sound frequency (pitch) and gradually lowering the volume of the sound until the manatee could no longer hear it. Plotting these 'hearing thresholds' on a graph, the team could see that the manatees had good hearing between 8 and 32kHz and could even hear sounds as low as 0.25kHz – so long as they were quite loud. However, they were even more amazed when Buffett appeared to be able to hear ultrasonic frequencies as high as 90.5kHz. 'Buffett did the task but refused to continue after the first round at that frequency, so we think it was aversive or annoying', Gaspard recalls.

Intrigued by the manatees' apparently sensitive hearing, the team then tested how well the mammals performed when the sounds were accompanied by background noise. Playing test tones – ranging from 4 to 32kHz – against background noise centered on the same pitch, the team recorded the difference between the volume of the tone and background noise when the manatee could no longer distinguish the tone. Plotting the critical ratio – the level at which the background noise swamped the manatee's hearing – against pitch for each animal, the team saw that the manatees struggled to hear lower and higher pitched sounds above background noise. However, their hearing was much sharper at 8kHz – the frequency at which manatees communicate – where they could still distinguish tones that were only 18.3dB louder than the background.

So, it appears that manatees should be able to hear approaching motorboats above background noise — but it's much more difficult to know whether manatees can always focus on these sounds in nature, Gaspard says. 'Manatees might be less aware of these sounds when they are sleeping, eating or performing other activities related to their daily lives that require their full attention,' says Gaspard. "There are also a multitude of environmental factors that come into play. Understanding how animals use their various senses is a complex process. Could their sense of touch also be playing a role here? We are working on that question now."

IF REPORTING ON THIS STORY, PLEASE MENTION THE JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY AS THE SOURCE AND, IF REPORTING ONLINE, PLEASE CARRY A LINK TO: http://jeb.biologists.org/content/215/9/1442.abstract

REFERENCE: Gaspard, J. C. III, Bauer, G. B., Reep, R. L., Dziuk, K., Cardwell, A., Read, L. and Mann, D. A. (2012). Audiogram and auditory critical ratios of two Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris). J. Exp. Biol. 215, 1442-1447.

This article is posted on this site to give advance access to other authorised media who may wish to report on this story. Full attribution is required, and if reporting online a link to jeb.biologists.com is also required. The story posted here is COPYRIGHTED. Therefore advance permission is required before any and every reproduction of each article in full. PLEASE CONTACT permissions@biologists.com

Kathryn Knight | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.biologists.com
http://jeb.biologists.org/content/215/9/1442.abstract

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections
25.09.2017 | University of Maryland

nachricht Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>