Singing Coral Heads Discovered on Blacktip Island

Blue chromis school above a stand of Blacktip Island’s singing staghorn coral on Jawfish Reef. (Photo courtesy Amanda Meyer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Blue chromis school around a stand of Blacktip Island’s singing staghorn coral on Jawfish Reef. (Photo courtesy Amanda Meyer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Blacktip Island researchers this week documented coral heads on the Caribbean island’s Jawfish Reef interacting with other corals via harmonic resonance.

“There’d been tall tales from scuba divers about singing coral,” Tiperon University-Blacktip professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “On a hunch, we installed one of our new Broadband Datalogging Sound/Vibe Monitoring arrays on the reef. The BDSM tests showed the staghorn polyps flagellate to create high-frequency vibrations.

“It’s more of a high-pitched hum than actual melody,” Mojarra said. “Like Tuvan throat singing, but in the 16740 hertz range. Near as we can tell, that lets polyps communicate coral-to-coral. It also explains why more people hear the tones as the staghorn recovers from near extinction.”

The discovery settles a debate that’s raged among Blacktip’s divers for years.

“There’s always that annoying whine at Jawfish” Eagle Ray Divers divemaster Marina DeLow said. “Like The Chipmunks singing ‘Good Vibrations.’ I chalked it up to doubling up on Sudafed, or vodka hangovers. Now we know better.”

Some experts, however, dispute the finding.

“This is textbook wish fulfillment, fueled by alcohol and who knows what else,” Island Psychological Association president Sigmund Skinner said. “Every scuba hippy wants to anthropomorphize the reef. They want to believe coral flagellates to communicate, and hey! What do you know? They discover coral flagellates. And sings while it does it!”

Local business owners, however, embraced the discovery.

“If coral can communicate with other coral, it stands to reason it can communicate with other organisms, even humans” said Elena Havens, owner of the Blacktip Haven resort. “Elephants communicate over vast distances with ultra-low frequency sounds. This is really no different.

“We’ve started underwater meditation sessions on the reef,” Havens said. “The effects have been stunning. It’s like our guests have become one big polyp colony.”

Researchers, meanwhile, are scrambling to catalogue the coral sounds.

“Ernesto brought us in to decipher the individual tones and tone combinations,” TU-B linguistics department chair Porgy Chomsky said. “We’re testing whether this is simply a species-specific vocabulary, or if we’re dealing with a pancorallic semiotic. It’s potentially ground breaking. Staghorn coral’s the Chatty Kathy of the reef.”

TU-B’s Mojarra concurred.

“If these harmonics are fueling coral growth, it could be key to restoring coral populations worldwide,” Mojarra said. “We have plans to regenerate individual coral heads with recorded music. And a crack team of marine geologists is working up plans for underwater coral topiary.”

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2 Comments

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

2 responses to “Singing Coral Heads Discovered on Blacktip Island

  1. MissJEJ

    Question, is this humming sound exclusive to this type of coral in this location?

    • Researchers are still looking into that. The prevailing hypothesis is all staghorn coral can sing, but coral heads in different countries may sing in different languages.

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