Algae On Coral Reefs Make Sounds During Photosynthesis

Posted: Dec 2 2018, 5:25pm CST | by , in Latest Science News


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Algae on Coral Reefs Make Sounds During Photosynthesis
Credit: Simon Freeman

Researchers have found that algae produce a distinctive "ping" while carrying out photosynthesis.

Plants and bacteria carry out photosynthesis. They absorb sunlight and convert it into energy. The process makes useful biochemicals and oxygen and thus forms the basis for most life on Earth.

Both land plants and algae are capable of performing photosynthesis but the process in latter leads to a unique response. Researchers have discovered that marine algae produce sound during photosynthesis.

Underwater photosynthesis creates tiny oxygen-containing bubbles. As the algae release these gas bubbles, they produce a distinctive "ping" sound. Researchers suggest that the specific sound correlates with algal cover on coral reefs and could become a simple and rapid way to measure algal cover because increased algal cover is one of the strongest indicators of stress on coral reef ecosystems.

“We discovered that algae make sound by first listening to coral reefs, and finding a link between what we heard and how much algae had smothered the coral. Intrigued, we performed experiments with algae in tanks to verify the source, and how the sounds made by algae contributed to coral reef soundscapes." Researcher Simon Freeman from US Naval Undersea Warfare Center said in a statement.

Researchers first noticed strange pings in Hawaii. But it was very difficult to determine the exact source that produces those sounds. It was possible that the noise came from water movement, ocean creatures or any other sources.

Previously, researchers have found a link between underwater soundscape and the abundance of algae over reefs. To determine whether the algae themselves were responsible for the sound, researcher conducted tank-based passive acoustic experiments with the Hawaiian invasive algae Salicornia gracilaria and recorded the resulting sound. The experiment produced sounds similar to those heard from distressed coral reefs. It ranged from 2 to 20 kiloHertz.

“With the onset of photosynthesis during light periods, bubbles could readily be observed with the naked eye on the surface of macroalgae,” authors wrote in the study. “As the bubbles detached from the plant, they created a short ‘ping’ sound. Acoustic recordings of bubble release separated by quiet periods consequently appear as an irregular pulse-train-like time series.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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