The Curious Acoustic Behavior of Estuarine Snapping Shrimp: Temporal Patterns of Snapping Shrimp Sound in Sub-Tidal Oyster Reef Habitat

Bohnenstiehl, D.R.; Lillis, A.; Eggleston, D.B.

PLOS one 11(1): E0143691


ISSN/ISBN: 1932-6203
PMID: 26761645
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143691
Accession: 058998015

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Ocean soundscapes convey important sensory information to marine life. Like many mid-to-low latitude coastal areas worldwide, the high-frequency (>1.5 kHz) soundscape of oyster reef habitat within the West Bay Marine Reserve (36°N, 76°W) is dominated by the impulsive, short-duration signals generated by snapping shrimp. Between June 2011 and July 2012, a single hydrophone deployed within West Bay was programmed to record 60 or 30 seconds of acoustic data every 15 or 30 minutes. Envelope correlation and amplitude information were then used to count shrimp snaps within these recordings. The observed snap rates vary from 1500-2000 snaps per minute during summer to <100 snaps per minute during winter. Sound pressure levels are positively correlated with snap rate (r = 0.71-0.92) and vary seasonally by ~15 decibels in the 1.5-20 kHz range. Snap rates are positively correlated with water temperatures (r = 0.81-0.93), as well as potentially influenced by climate-driven changes in water quality. Light availability modulates snap rate on diurnal time scales, with most days exhibiting a significant preference for either nighttime or daytime snapping, and many showing additional crepuscular increases. During mid-summer, the number of snaps occurring at night is 5-10% more than predicted by a random model; however, this pattern is reversed between August and April, with an excess of up to 25% more snaps recorded during the day in the mid-winter. Diurnal variability in sound pressure levels is largest in the mid-winter, when the overall rate of snapping is at its lowest, and the percentage difference between daytime and nighttime activity is at its highest. This work highlights our lack of knowledge regarding the ecology and acoustic behavior of one of the most dominant soniforous invertebrate species in coastal systems. It also underscores the necessity of long-duration, high-temporal-resolution sampling in efforts to understand the bioacoustics of animal behaviors and associated changes within the marine soundscape.