What's the Sound of One Mollusk Coughing?

More

Like coal mine canaries, but instead of dying, they rumble.

Scallop coughing
[Di Lorio et al, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology]

"How do mullusks go to the bathroom?" you asked.

"We don't speak of such things," said your mother, whisking you indignantly to the next tank at the aquarium.

SHARK300200.jpg[Melissa Nelson/AP]

But now you're older, and it's time you knew. Because it really might matter. It's called "coughing." They push everything out in bursts of water that make this thumping rumble. It's very embarrassing for them.

Recording and measuring the frequency that they're doing it -- with powerful underwater hydrophones (Christmas gift idea) -- could be an important early detector of changes in water quality. Oxygen concentration, chlorophyll, temperature, and salinity all change the way scallops feed and, then, excrete.

Ecologists have historically used mollusks as "early warning systems for human health hazards." But they do it mostly by tediously measuring the little striae (lines) on their shells, because scallops produce them "on a daily basis," and they are very sensitive creatures. Interesting fact, but not a fun job. Recording this thumping, though, is much more chill and lets us not bother the scallops. So they can keep doing their mollusk thing.

French researchers at University of Brest believe "acoustic recording is likely to become a powerful, non-intrusive method for the long-term monitoring of the behavior of a pectinid species (scallop) and its responses to environmental changes affecting growth."

[via Science]
Jump to comments
Presented by

James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic.

 
 
More

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In