The mysteries of the oceans’ deeps are countless, but a recent study suggests that a long-ago-discovered low-frequency hum presented by the ocean might be as simple to explain as fish flatulence.
Fish farts the answer to a long-vexing question?
Most people who spend time in the blackened depths of the ocean don’t have James Cameron’s money. For that matter, they often don’t have any money at all but are, rather, forced to beg patrons for money while promising not to have any fun in Bali or Hawaii. (The Canadian director built himself a submersible and went all sorts of deep for his project “Deepsea Challenger”)
University of California-San Diego assistant research biologist Simone Baumann-Pickering may have just answered a question that has had marine biologists on the back foot for some time, “What is that hum?”
It might be a simple matter of vast communities of fish heading up to the surface to eat and their subsequent return.
Scientists have long known the “hum” wasn’t consistent with the calls of whales or other marine mammals, but still couldn’t explain it. It’s a little bit like that less than helpful member on your pub quiz team that contributes very little outside of adding to your frustration and inner questions as to what they are doing on your team.
(They say things like, “That’s wrong.”
“Okay, what’s the answer?” you respond.
“I have no idea, I just know your answer is wrong,” they say.)
That’s not Baumann-Pickering, she had the luxury of new tech that provided her with high-sensitivity undersea audio recordings. In those recordings, she simply discerned that shrimp, jellies and fish among others living in the mesopelagic zone of the ocean (200 to 100 meters deep) are responsible for the vexing sound that had confounded her colleagues.
Fish headed to the primaries?
Said sea life, like certain “winning” political supporters, live in a world where the sun rarely shines and there is not an abundance of food. What little there is, is often stolen by interlopers (immigrants) through their willingness to go out of their depth and work hard to find the little that is offered them. (Sorry)
At night, these mesopelagic zone denizens swim to the surface to feast and return home. It’s during this time that the oceans’ volume level rises by 3 to 6 decibels (I can’t help it, the Trump metaphor still works).
“It’s not that loud,” Baumann-Pickering said in a statement. “It sounds like a buzzing or humming, and that goes on for an hour to two hours, depending on the day.” But it is constant.
While the sound could be a simple matter of the group signalling the group to head up to the surface or back down…it could also be a simple matter of gas passing as their bladders regulate buoyancy.
“It’s known that some fish are considered to be farting,” Baumann-Pickering told NPR, “that they emit gas as they change depths in the water column.”
Farts are the more likely culprit for the hum as evolution wouldn’t suggest that these deep-sea creatures would trumpet their assent to or descent from the surface to nearby predators.
Baumann-Pickering presented her findings this week at the Ocean Sciences Meeting presently being held in New Orleans.
No mesopelagic fish were in attendance at the meetings, but Louisiana’s presidential primary isn’t until early March this year.