Reef Song

Darling, it’s better down where it’s wetter, under the sea! 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Sebastian the crab – from The Little Mermaid – wasn’t wrong. But did he really think Ariel could be convinced with a song? Well, maybe she should have been…

Take coral reefs… the hubs of marine life. Scientists can measure reef health through SOUND. A healthy coral reef resonates with the sounds of all the animals living there. If a reef is unhealthy, animals can’t live there anymore, completely changing its sound. Can we tell if a reef is healthy JUST BY listening?!

Dr. Ben Williams and his team at the University of Exeter took the plunge. 

They designed artificial intelligence that can determine the health of a reef through audio! This AI can HEAR auditory patterns humans can’t. It listens to frequencies specific to certain animals that live in the reef. This allows it to determine the health of the reef with ninety-two percent accuracy!

The researchers used this technology to track the progress of restoration efforts in real time!

Talk about a hot crustacean band!

Reference: Williams, B., Lamont, T. A. C., Chapuis, L., Harding, H. R., May, E. B., Prasetya, M. E., Seraphim, M. J., Jompa, J., Smith, D. J., Janetski, N., Radford, A. N., & Simpson, S. D. (2022). Enhancing automated analysis of marine soundscapes using ecoacoustic indices and machine learning. Ecological Indicators, 140, 108986.