Sound Bites

White Spotted Ray

CRUNCH! Who’s eating all the popcorn shrimp?

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

Sea critters have NO patience for shucking shellfish! Many predators munch straight through the hard shells. And like kids sneaking chips in class, wild shell chompers leave no evidence behind! So – WHO’S eating WHAT?

Matthew Ajemian from Florida Atlantic University and colleagues thought LISTENING to the crunches could clue us in.

The researchers captured four wild white-spotted eagle rays and placed them in a tank. They recorded sounds of rays feasting on over four hundred shellfish from eight different species, including clams, mussels, and scallops.

Results? Shellfish varied in time taken to eat and the number of cracks heard! The cracks also varied in volume and pitch. Together, this data tells scientists WHAT’S on the menu!

Shellfish help maintain the ocean’s health and could be important farmed food for humans. Too many shell crunchers can make them disappear. Knowing the amount and types of shellfish consumed by predators could help preserve them!

I guess rays just can’t clam up about those clams!

Reference: Ajemian, M. J., Lamboy, C., Ibrahim, A., DeGroot, B. C., Bassos-Hull, K., Mann, D. A., & Chérubin, L. Capturing shell-crushing by large mobile predators using passive acoustics technology. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 535, 151497 (2021).