Oysters Use Sound to Choose their Home

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Ashlee Lillis, a post-doctoral research fellow, researched how sound affects where oysters choose to live — even though they don’t have ears, as she stated in a N.C. State news release written by Tracy Peake.

Lillis does this research with her professor, David Eggleston, and in collaboration with geophysicist Del Bohnenstiehl, beginning in summer of 2010 and ending in summer of 2012.

“The ocean has different soundscapes, just like on land,” Lillis said in the release, “Living in a reef is like living in a busy urban area: There are a lot of residents, a lot of activity and a lot of noise. By comparison, the seafloor is more like living in the quiet countryside.”

Lillis studied larval settlement cues for her undergraduate thesis and as a master’s student. She said that soundscapes “seemed like an avenue of research that is not only fascinating but relatively unexplored.”

To test the effects of ocean soundscapes, Lillis and her professors put oysters from hatcheries from the University of Maryland and a hatchery in North Carolina into cylindrical tanks, capable of holding 20 liters, with speakers at the bottom playing sounds that would be heard in different locations in the ocean. They then measured how many oysters chose to settle.

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