Acoustic monitoring indicates a correlation between calling and spawning in captive spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus)

PeerJ. 2017 Feb 9:5:e2944. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2944. eCollection 2017.


Background: Fish sound production is widespread throughout many families. Territorial displays and courtship are the most common reasons for fish sound production. Yet, there is still some questions on how acoustic signaling and reproduction are correlated in many sound-producing species. In the present study, our aim was to determine if a quantitative relationship exists between calling and egg deposition in captive spotted seatrout (Cynoscion nebulosus). This type of data is essential if passive acoustics is to be used to identify spawning aggregations over large spatial scales and monitor reproductive activity over annual and decadal timeframes.

Methods: Acoustic recorders (i.e., DSG-Oceans) were placed in three laboratory tanks to record underwater sound over an entire, simulated reproductive season. We enumerated the number of calls, calculated the received sound pressure level, and counted the number of eggs every morning in each tank.

Results: Spotted seatrout produced three distinct call types characterized as "drums," "grunts," and "staccatos." Spotted seatrout calling increased as the light cycle shifted from 13.5 to 14.5 h of light, and the temperature increased to 27.7 °C. Calling decreased once the temperature fell below 27.7 °C, and the light cycle shifted to 12 h of light. These temperature and light patterns followed the natural reproductive season observed in wild spotted seatrout in the Southeast United States. Spotted seatrout exhibited daily rhythms in calling. Acoustic signaling began once the lights turned off, and calling reached maximum activity approximately 3 h later. Eggs were released only on evenings in which spotted seatrout were calling. In all tanks, spotted seatrout were more likely to spawn when male fish called more frequently. A positive relationship between SPL and the number of eggs collected was found in Tanks 1 and 3.

Discussion: Our findings indicate that acoustic metrics can predict spawning potential. These findings are important because plankton tows may not accurately reflect spawning locations since egg capture is likely affected by predator activity and water currents. Instead, passive acoustics could be used to monitor spotted seatrout reproduction. Future studies can use this captive study as a model to record the estuarine soundscape precisely over long time periods to better understand how human-made stressors (e.g., climate change, noise pollution, and chemical pollutants) may affect spawning patterns.

Keywords: Acoustic recorders; Cynoscion nebulosus; DSG Oceans; Sciaenid; Soniferous fish; Sound production; Spawning; Spotted seatrout.