Automatic Undersea Recording of Fish Farts

A new era in fish fart documentation—using robotic undersea mobile vehicles—has begun, suggests a new study. Previous fish fart documentation was done either manually or by static hydrophones, and resulted most notably in two studies, about herring farts, that were honored with the 2004 Ig Nobel Prize in biology. (One of those studies resulted from the efforts of Sweden’s prime minister to find evidence that Russian submarines were lurking in Stockholm harbor. This past weekend, that fateful recorded sound of Swedish herring farts was played publicly for the first time, in an event at the Karolinska Institute.) The new study is:

Shelf-scale mapping of sound production by fishes in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, using autonomous glider technology,” Carrie C. Wall, Chad Lembke and David A. Mann, Marine Ecology Progress Service, vol. 449, 2012, pp. 55-64.  The authors, at College of Marine Science and Center for Ocean Technology, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, Florida, report:

” Autonomous gliders are a relatively new technology for studying oceanography over large time and space scales. We integrated a hydrophone into the aft cowling of a glider and used it in a 1 wk, shelf-scale deployment on the West Florida Shelf to detect and map fish sounds in the ocean over a large spatial scale. In addition to red grouper and toadfish sounds, at least 3 unknown biological sounds suspected to be produced by fish were identified through manual analysis of the acoustic files. The biogeography of these fishes was identified by mapping the occurrence of sounds along the glider track. Sounds produced by red grouper and toadfish were detected throughout the day predominately in bottom depths >40 m. Conversely, the 3 unknown biological sounds were detected exclusively at night over varying bottom depths.”

BONUS: Science Now has a report about the new study, with links to sound files of automatically recorded purported fish farts.

BONUS [ March 28]: Ig Nobel Prize winner Magnus Wahlberg comments on the new findings.