Research Programs

Lobel Laboratory Research on Fish Bioacoustics and Reproduction

The study of fish bioacoustics is expanding scientific knowledge about how fish communicate their reproductive behavior and evolution. It also applies directly to aspects of fisheries management and conservation. Furthermore, these studies are revealing the importance of the acoustic environment and, once more, raise old questions regarding potential adverse impacts of noise pollution to fishes and other aquatic animals.

The scientific goal of my bioacoustic research is to determine which fishes produce species-specific sound patterns exclusively with explicit acts of courtship and mating. This provides scientific insight into evolutionary and ecological processes and also provides data necessary to develop the passive acoustic detection technology for monitoring fish reproduction.

One goal of the research in my laboratory is to evaluate how specific fish vocalizations and methods for passive acoustic localization can be applied to field studies of fish reproduction. We are evaluating how species-specific sounds differ statistically and acoustically. This provides the data necessary to identify which species have the potential to be monitored using passive acoustic detection. The ultimate objective is to develop instrumentation, deployment strategies and analytical procedures for locating spawning populations, and quantifying the spatial and temporal patterns of fish reproduction. It is important to determine whether specific spawning sites are used consistently throughout a season and between seasons, or if sites change with fluctuating environmental conditions. For example, certain groupers and snappers aggregate annually at specific sites to spawn. Determining exactly where and when these fish spawn is a critical component of assessing essential fish habitat and practicing effective marine management. The spatial and temporal patterns of fish reproduction at known sites can be recorded using hydrophones, recorders and, recently, computers. When these systems are coupled with standard physical oceanographic instrumentation, it will provide quantitative data on the correlation of spawning patterns with temperature, light levels, salinity, current flow, etc. Day-length, temperature and salinity are common proximate environmental cues for fishes to synchronize breeding. However, it is probably the spatial and temporal interplay of the proximate stimuli with variables affecting larval survival and recruitment that ultimately achieve regulation of reproductive cycles.

This information is essential to understanding how fish reproduction may be correlated with oceanographic phenomena that influence larval distribution patterns. Ultimately, replicates of this combined bioacoustic-physical oceanographic station could be deployed at multiple sites simultaneously to compare the timing of spawning throughout a region. To test our concepts and develop the methods we need to evaluate field recordings of fish courtship and spawning sounds. Rebreathers provide the technology to do this most efficiently.

Publications on fish bioacoustics

1992 Lobel, P. S. Sounds produced by spawning fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 33:351-358.

1995 Lobel P. S. & D. A. Mann. Spawning sounds of the damselfish, Dascyllus albisella (Pomacentridae), and relationship to male size. Bioacoustics 6:187-198

1995 Mann,D. A. & P. S. Lobel. Passive acoustic detection of spawning sounds produced by the damselfish, Dascyllus albisella (Pomacentridae). Bioacoustics 6: 199-213

1996 Lobel, P. S. Spawning sound of the Trunkfish, Ostracion meleagris (Ostraciidae).Biological Bulletin 191: 308-309

1997 Mann, D.A. and P.S. Lobel Information content and Propagation of Damselfish (Pomacentridae) Courtship Sounds J. Acoustical Soc Amer 101(6):3783-3791.

1998 Mann, D.A. and P.S. Lobel Acoustic Behavior of the Damselfish, Dascyllus albisella: behavior and Geographic Variation Environmental Biology of Fishes 51:421-428.

1998 Lobel, P. S. Possible species specific courtship sounds by two sympatric cichlid fishes in Lake Malawi, Africa. Environmental Biology of Fishes 52: 443-452.

1999 Lobel P. S. and L. M. Kerr, Courtship sounds of Abudefduf sordidus (Pomacentridae) Biological Bulletin, 197:242-244

1999 Kaatz, I. And P. S. Lobel, The acoustic behavior and reproduction of five species of Corydoris catfishes. Biological Bulletin, 197:241-242

2001 Rice, A. A., D. S. Portnoy, I. M. Kaatz & P. S. Lobel. Differentiation of pharyngeal muscles on the basis of enzyme activities in the cichlid Tramitochromis intermedius. Biol. Bull. 201:258-260

2001 Kaatz, I. M. & P. S. Lobel. A comparison of sounds recorded form a catfish (Orinocodoras eigenmanni, Doradidae) in an aquarium and in the field. Biol. Bull. 201:278-280.

2001a Lobel P. S. Fish bioacoustics and behavior: passive acoustic detection and the application of a closed-circuit rebreather for field study. Marine Technology Society Journal, 35:19-28

2001b Lobel, P. S., Acoustic behavior of cichlid fishes. Journal of Aquariculture & Aquatic Sciences 9:167-186

2002 Lobel, P. S. Diversity of fish spawning sounds and the application of passive acoustic monitoring. Bioacoustics 12:286-289

2002 Ripley, J. L., P. S. Lobel & H. Y. Yan Correlation of sound production with hearing sensitivity in the Lake Malawi cichlid, Tramitochromis intermedius. Bioacoustics 12:238-240

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