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Title: Bioacoustics  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Underwater acoustics, David Monacchi, Acoustics, Whale vocalization, Animal communication
Collection: Acoustics, Zoosemiotics
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Bioacoustics is a cross-disciplinary science that combines biology and acoustics. Usually it refers to the investigation of sound production, dispersion and reception in animals (including humans).[1] This involves neurophysiological and anatomical basis of sound production and detection, and relation of acoustic signals to the medium they disperse through. The findings provide clues about the evolution of acoustic mechanisms, and from that, the evolution of animals that employ them.

In underwater acoustics and fisheries acoustics the term is also used to mean the effect of plants and animals on sound propagated underwater, usually in reference to the use of sonar technology for biomass estimation.[2][3]


  • History 1
  • Methods in bioacoustics 2
    • Acoustic signals 2.1
    • Sound production, detection, and use in animals 2.2
    • Biomass estimation 2.3
  • Animal sounds 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6
  • Further reading 7


For a long time humans have employed animal sounds to recognise and find them. Bioacoustics as a

  • Ewing A.W. (1989): Arthropod bioacoustics: Neurobiology and behaviour. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-0148-1
  • Fletcher N. (2007): Animal Bioacoustics. IN: Rossing T.D. (ed.): Springer Handbook of Acoustics, Springer. ISBN 978-0-387-33633-6

Further reading

  • BioAcoustica: Wildlife Sounds Database
  • The British Library Sound Archive has 150,000 recordings of over 10,000 species.
  • International Bioacoustics Council links to many bioacoustics resources.
  • Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics at The Ohio State University has a large archive of animal sound recordings.
  • Listen to Nature 400 examples of animal songs and calls
  • Wildlife Sound Recording Society
  • Bioacoustic Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology distributes a number of different free bioacoustics synthesis & analysis programs.
  • Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the world's largest collection of animal sounds and associated video.

External links

  1. ^ "Bioacoustics - the International Journal of Animal Sound and its Recording". Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Medwin H. & Clay C.S. (1998). Fundamentals of Acoustical Oceanography, Academic Press
  3. ^ a b Simmonds J. & MacLennan D. (2005). Fisheries Acoustics: Theory and Practice, second edition. Blackwell
  4. ^ Kočar T. (2004). Kot listja in kobilic (As many as leaves and grasshoppers). GEA, october 2004. Mladinska knjiga, Ljubljana (Slovene)
  5. ^ Glen Wever, Ernest (2008). "Sound reception: Evidence of hearing and communication in insects". Britannica online. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  6. ^ Sueur J., Pavoine S., Hamerlynck O., Duvail S. (December 30, 2008). Reby, David, ed. "Rapid Acoustic Survey for Biodiversity Appraisal".  
  7. ^ M. Pourhomayoun, P. Dugan, M. Popescu, and C. Clark, “Bioacoustic Signal Classification Based on Continuous Region Features, Grid Masking Features and Artificial Neural Network,” International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML), 2013.
  8. ^ Mason A.C., Morris G.K., Wall P. (1991): High Ultrasonic Hearing and Tympanal Slit Function in Rainforest Katydids. Naturwissenschaften 78: 365-367.
  9. ^ Virant-Doberlet M. & Čokl A. (2004): Vibrational communication in insects. Neotropical Entomology 33(2): 121-134


See also

Sounds used by animals that fall within the scope of bioacoustics include a wide range of frequencies and media, and are often not "sound" in the narrow sense of the word (i.e. ground vibrations produced by elephants whose principal frequency component is around 15 Hz, and low- to medium-frequency substrate-borne vibrations used by most insect orders.[9] Many animal sounds, however, do fall within the frequency range detectable by a human ear, between 20 and 20,000 Hz. Mechanisms for sound production and detection are just as diverse as the signals themselves.

Animal sounds

Biomass estimation is a method of detecting and quantifying sonar technology.[3] As the sound pulse travels through water it encounters objects that are of different density than the surrounding medium, such as fish, that reflect sound back toward the sound source. These echoes provide information on fish size, location, and abundance. The basic components of the scientific echo sounder hardware function is to transmit the sound, receive, filter and amplify, record, and analyze the echoes. While there are many manufacturers of commercially available "fish-finders," quantitative analysis requires that measurements be made with calibrated echo sounder equipment, having high signal-to-noise ratios.

Biomass estimation

But since the methods used for neurophysiological research are still fairly complex and understanding of relevant processes is incomplete, more trivial methods are also used. Especially useful is observation of behavioural responses to acoustic signals. One such response is phonotaxis – directional movement towards the signal source. By observing response to well defined signals in a controlled environment, we can gain insight into signal function, sensitivity of the hearing apparatus, noise filtering capability, etc.

muscle action, and activity of neuronal networks involved. Of special interest is coding of signals with action potentials in the latter.

Sound production, detection, and use in animals

Animal sound collections, managed by museums of natural history and other institutions, are an important tool for systematic investigation of signals. Many effective automated methods involving signal processing, data mining and machine learning techniques have been developed to detect and classify the bioacoustic signals.[7]

An experienced observer can use animal sounds to recognize a "singing" animal species, its location and condition in nature. Investigation of animal sounds also includes signal recording with electronic recording equipment. Due to the wide range of signal properties and media they propagate through, specialized equipment may be required instead of the usual microphone, such as a hydrophone (for underwater sounds), detectors of ultrasound (very high-frequency sounds) or infrasound (very low-frequency sounds), or a laser vibrometer (substrate-borne vibrational signals). Computers are used for storing and analysis of recorded sounds. Specialized sound-editing software is used for describing and sorting signals according to their intensity, frequency, duration and other parameters.

Spectrogram (above) and oscillogram (below) of the humpback whale's calls

Acoustic signals

Listening is still one of the main methods used in bioacoustical research. Little is known about neurophysiological processes that play a role in production, detection and interpretation of sounds in animals, so animal behaviour and the signals themselves are used for gaining insight into these processes.


Methods in bioacoustics

The most recent advances in bioacoustics concern the relationships among the animals and their acoustic environment and the impact of anthropogenic noise. Bioacoustic techniques have recently been proposed as a non-invasive method for estimating biodiversity.[6]

Relatively crude electro-mechanical devices available at the time (such as phonographs) allowed only for crude appraisal of signal properties. More accurate measurements were made possible in the second half of the 20th century by advances in electronics and utilization of devices such as oscilloscopes and digital recorders.


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