On the Air: November 29, 2015
Typical acoustic signatures of bottomfish, during day and night surveys. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Reka Domokos

The oceans are getting louder. Fish and mammals grunt, click, and chirp to attract mates, threaten rivals, or just say “howdy.” At times, though, they can be overpowered by the sounds created by humans. It’s enough to drive a fish to distraction.

To understand just how distracting human-made noise can be, scientists first must understand how marine organisms deal with the natural “soundscape” — the sounds produced by the creatures themselves. A recent study, for example, found that fish seem to talk over each other during the daytime, but share the soundscape at night.

In Print: December 1, 2015
Juvenile smalltooth sawfish in the Charlotte Harbor estuarine system, Florida. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

If a species on the brink of extinction could learn to clone itself, that nifty trick could improve its chances for survival. And that’s exactly what scientists have discovered some smalltooth sawfish are doing in Florida — reproducing without mating. This critically endangered species is one of five species of sawfish, creatures that look like a cross between a shark, a ray and a chainsaw blade. Sawfish have a long, flat snout with widely spaced teeth that protrude in a line on either side, an arrangement that is reminiscent of a saw.