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Stressed-out Scallops

January 3, 2013

Scientists can assess the health of marine ecosystems by recording the coughing sounds made by scallops.



The sound of a sick ocean.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

To assess the health of marine environments, scientists are listening to coughing scallops: According to physiological ecologist Anthony Robson of the European University Institute of Ocean Sciences in France, the animals produce distinctive sounds when they expel water and waste from their valves. Using underwater microphones and movement sensors, he and his colleagues can estimate how often the scallops are active – a measure of water quality.

A scallop fitted with an accelerometer. (Iorio et al/Science)

ANTHONY ROBSON (Institut Universitaire Européen des Sciences de la Mer, France):

Bivalves such as scallops are excellent indicators of the state of the environment. Scallops are very sensitive animals. Measuring the sounds they make and movements they make in 3-D, we can detect how stressed they are in their environment.


He says monitoring scallop sounds and movements could also benefit commercial aquaculture by alerting growers when the animals are stressed. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.