During storm / bad weather, sea waves produce powerful acoustic energy. In sea animals which use sounds to communicate, is there any studies about how they cope with this?

As any species in a given environment, evolution has caused their sound emission to have evolved to differenciate from the background noise, however, do they need to communicate differently accordingly to the weather? Or do they just stop communicating? Is going deeper underwater a good shelter for them to protect from sea wave sounds?


2 Answers 2


Abiotic/ambient noise such as this has the potential to mask communication, in the same way that anthropogenic noise can. In fish a good example is cod (see reference below), whose hearing thresholds 'shift' according to ambient sounds, that is, their hearing is affected by the ambient conditions.

Some fish, gobies for example, are thought to utilise 'noise windows' to communicate within, that is, they vocalise in a frequency range that is 'less noisy'.

Check out this book chapter for a review--> Ladich, F. (2013). Effects of noise on sound detection and acoustic communication in fishes. In Animal communication and noise (pp. 65-90). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

And these references-> Chapman CJ, Hawkins AD (1973) A field study of hearing in the cod, Gadus morhua L. J Comp Physiol A 85:147–167

Lugli M, Yan HY, Fine ML (2003) Acoustic communication in two freshwater gobies: the relationship between ambient noise, hearing thresholds and sound spectrum. J Comp Physiol A 189:309–320


Surface noise is the dominant contribution for frequencies above, say 500 Hz to well over 100 kHz. There is a decrease as a function of depth that is rather complicated depending on the surface expression (how large is the agitated surface patch) and on the sound speed profile (if long distance noise is trapped close to surface or not).

The effect of noise reduction is also not very much, as only absorption really counts (surface is 2D sound source). Only deep diving beaked whales echolocating at 40 kHz can reduce surface noise by 10 dB if they dive to 1000 m.


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