The Purr of the Lionfish: Sound and Behavioral Context of Wild Lionfish in the Greater Caribbean
Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Partnership
Passive acoustic technology has become a useful and cost-effective method to collect data with very high temporal resolution that can be used to detect the presence, distribution, and remotely monitor soniferous marine biodiversity. In order to maximize the potential of bioacoustic and soundscape research in the oceans, understanding the association between the different realms of sound sources, species-specific calls and behavioral context of sound production are fundamental. A previously unknown vocalization was associated with a behavioral display of lionfish (Pterois spp.) by recordings with synchronous audio and video at deep coral reefs in both Puerto Rico and the Florida Keys. Calls of variable length in bouts of intermittent calls were heard along displays between pairs of lionfish. Calls had a mean frequency of 251 Hz and very low mean SPL (72-67 dB re 1μPa). This sound may be classified as courtship related as it was observed between two lionfish that appeared of dissimilar size (presumably male and female), engaged in following and circling displays. The sound occurred in the afternoons near sunset at both sites. This is the first reported sound produced by lionfish in association with a behavioral display in the wild. Low sound pressure levels suggest this is a quiet signal for communication between individuals in close proximity. With this description the presence of lionfish in areas deeper than normal diving limits or during inaccessible times, e.g., during the evening, could be pursued.
Schärer-Umpierre, M., Zayas-Santiago, C., Appeldoorn, R., Tuohy, E., Olson, J., Keller, J., and A. Acosta. 2019. The purr of the lionfish: Sound and behavioral context of wild lionfish in the Greater Caribbean. Gulf and Caribbean Research 30:GCFI15-GCFI19.