[Coral-List] Threats to coral from seismic testing (Stephen Simpson)

Steve Simpson simpsonstephen at hotmail.com
Thu May 17 17:09:47 EDT 2007

Hi Tim,


The effects of marine seismic petroleum exploration on invertebrates is yet
to be tested across phyla, and with limited sensory apparatus it is likely
that some inverts may be fairly unaffected.  However, it has been suggested
that squid may be susceptible:




There is evidence in fish that these blasts can cause sustained extensive
damage to the hair cells in the sensory epithelia surrounding the otoliths
(ear structures), and this damage shows little signs of repair even after a
couple of months:


McCauley RD, Fewtrell J, Popper AN (2003) High intensity anthropogenic sound
damages fish ears. J Acoust Soc Am 113:638-642


There is increased evidence from work by Jeff Leis, Nick Tolimieri, Andrew
Jeffs, Mark Meekan, John Montgomery, Rob McCauley and myself that the marine
soundscape is important to fish and some crustaceans at key life stages
(such as recruitment to the reef).  For a recent review, see:


Montgomery JC, Jeffs A, Simpson SD, Meekan MG, Tindle C (2006) Sound as an
orientation clue for the pelagic larvae of reef fish and crustaceans. Adv
Mar Biol 51:143-196


This raises the possibility that seismic testing (and the temporary
threshold shifts that ensue), as well as many other sources of anthropogenic
noise in the oceans, could impact negatively on communities on coral reefs,
as well as animals in other oceanic domains.  Only time, and more controlled
exposure experiments with other animals, will tell us what the effects of
these acute sources of noise pollution may be.


But as highlighted by Tom Williams, as soon as black gold is struck, this is
then usually followed by a whole new cacophony of noises from other sources.


Happy researching,


Stephen Simpson



Dr Stephen D. Simpson 
Tropical Fish Ecologist, University of Edinburgh

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