Marine petroleum exploration involves the repetitive use of high-energy noise sources, air-guns, that produce a short, sharp, low-frequency sound. Despite reports of behavioral responses of fishes and marine mammals to such noise, it is not known whether exposure to air-guns has the potential to damage the ears of aquatic vertebrates. It is shown here that the ears of fish exposed to an operating air-gun sustained extensive damage to their sensory epithelia that was apparent as ablated hair cells. The damage was regionally severe, with no evidence of repair or replacement of damaged sensory cells up to 58 days after air-gun exposure.

1.
Corwin
,
J. T.
, and
Cotanche
,
D. A.
(
1988
). “
Regeneration of sensory hair cells after acoustic trauma
,”
Science
240
,
1772
1774
.
2.
Dale
,
T.
(
1976
). “
The labyrinthine mechanoreceptor organs of the cod Gadus morhua L. (Teleostei, Gadidae)
,”
Norw. J. Zool.
24
,
85
128
.
3.
de Vries
,
H. L.
(
1950
). “
The mechanics of the labyrinth otoliths
,”
Acta Oto-Laryngol.
38
,
262
273
.
4.
Engås
,
A.
,
Lo/kkeborg
,
S.
,
Ona
,
E.
, and
Soldal
,
A. V.
(
1996
). “
Effects of seismic shooting on local abundance and catch rates of cod (Gadus Morhua) and haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus)
,”
Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci.
53
,
2238
2249
.
5.
Enger, P. S. (1981). “Frequency discrimination in teleosts—central or peripheral?” in Hearing and Sound Communication in Fishes, edited by W. N. Tavolga, A. N. Popper, and R. R. Fay (Springer-Verlag, New York), pp. 243–255.
6.
Fay, R. R. (1988). Hearing in Vertebrates: A Psychophysics Databook (Hill-Fay, Winnetka, IL).
7.
Hastings
,
M. C.
,
Popper
,
A. N.
,
Finneran
,
J. J.
, and
Lanford
,
P. J.
(
1996
). “
Effect of low frequency underwater sound on hair cells of the inner ear and lateral line of the teleost fish Astronotus ocellatus
,”
J. Acoust. Soc. Am.
99
,
1759
1766
.
8.
Lombarte
,
A.
, and
Popper
,
A. N.
(
1994
). “
Quantitative analyses of postembryonic hair cell addition in the otolithic endorgans of the inner ear of the European hake, Merluccius merluccius (Gadiformes, Teleostei)
,”
J. Comp. Neurol.
345
,
419
428
.
9.
Lombarte
,
A.
,
Yan
,
H. Y.
,
Popper
,
A. N.
,
Chang
,
J. C.
, and
Platt
,
C.
(
1993
). “
Damage and regeneration of hair cell ciliary bundles in a fish ear following treatment with gentamicin
,”
Hear. Res.
66
,
166
174
.
10.
McCauley, R. D. (1994). “Seismic surveys,” in Environmental Implications of Offshore Oil and Gas Development in Australia—The Findings of an Independent Scientific Review, edited by J. M. Swan, J. M. Neff, and P. C. Young (Australian Petroleum Exploration Association, Sydney), pp. 19–122.
11.
NRC (National Research Council) (1994). Low-Frequency Sound and Marine Mammals: Current Knowledge and Research Needs (National Academy, Washington, DC).
12.
NRC (National Research Council) (2000). Marine Mammals and Low Frequency Sound: Progress Since 1994 (National Academy, Washington, DC).
13.
Parkes, G., and Hatton, L. (1986). The Marine Seismic Source (Reidel, Dordrecht).
14.
Pearson
,
W. H.
,
Skalski
,
J. R.
, and
Malme
,
C. I.
(
1992
). “
Effects of sounds from a geophysical survey device on behavior of captive rockfish (Sebastes spp.)
,”
Can. J. Fish. Aquat. Sci.
49
,
1343
1356
.
15.
Pickles
,
J. O.
(1993). “Hair cells–mechanosensors and motors,” Acoust. Aust. 21, 82–85.
16.
Popper
,
A. N.
(
1977
). “
A scanning electron microscopic study of the sacculus and lagena in the ears of fifteen species of teleost fishes
,”
J. Morphol.
153
,
397
418
.
17.
Popper, A. N., and Fay, R. R. (1999). “The auditory periphery in fishes,” in Comparative Hearing: Fish and Amphibians, edited by R. R. Fay and A. N. Popper (Springer-Verlag, New York), pp. 43–100.
18.
Popper
,
A. N.
, and
Hoxter
,
B.
(
1994
). “
Growth of a fish ear: 1. Quantitative analysis of sensory hair cell and ganglion cell proliferation
,”
Hear. Res.
15
,
133
142
.
19.
Richardson, W. J., Greene, Jr., C. R., Malme, C. L., and Thomson, D. H. (1995). Marine Mammals and Noise (Academic, New York).
20.
Sand
,
O.
, and
Karlsen
,
H. E.
(
1986
). “
Detection of infrasound by the Atlantic cod
,”
J. Exp. Biol.
125
,
197
204
.
This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.