Ground-truthing daily and lunar patterns of coral reef fish call rates on a US Virgin Island reef

Sophie R. Ferguson, Frants H. Jensen, Matthew D. Hyer, Allison Noble, Amy Apprill, T. Aran Mooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Coral reefs comprise some of the most biodiverse habitats on the planet. These ecosystems face a range of stressors, making quantifying community assemblages and potential changes vital to effective management. To understand short-and long-term changes in biodiversity and detect early warning signals of decline, new methods for quantifying biodiversity at scale are necessary. Acoustic monitoring techniques have proven useful in observing species activities and biodiversity on coral reefs through aggregate approaches (i.e. energy as a proxy). However, few studies have ground-truthed these acoustic analyses with human-based observations. In this study, we sought to expand these passive acoustic methods by investigating biological sounds and fish call rates on a healthy reef, providing a unique set of human-confirmed, labeled acoustic observations. We analyzed acoustic data from Tektite Reef, St. John, US Virgin Islands, over a 2 mo period. A subset of acoustic files was manually inspected to identify recurring biotic sounds and quantify reef activity throughout the day. We found a high variety of acoustic signals in this soundscape. General patterns of call rates across time conformed to expectations, with dusk and dawn showing important and significantly elevated peaks in soniferous fish activity. The data reflected high variability in call rates across days and lunar phases. Call rates did not correspond to sound pressure levels, suggesting that certain call types may drive crepuscular trends in sound levels while lower-level critical calls, likely key for estimating biodiversity and behavior, may be missed by gross sound level analyses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-87
Number of pages11
JournalAquatic Biology
StatePublished - 2022


  • Acoustic behavior
  • Biodiversity
  • Marine protected area
  • Monitoring
  • Noise
  • Soundscape
  • Tropics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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