Does exposure to noise from human activities compromise sensory information from cephalopod statocysts?

Marta Solé, Marc Lenoir, Mercè Durfort, Manel López-Bejar, Antoni Lombarte, Mike Van Der Schaar, Michel André

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Many anthropogenic noise sources are nowadays contributing to the general noise budget of the oceans. The extent to which sound in the sea impacts and affects marine life is a topic of considerable current interest both to the scientific community and to the general public. Cepaholopods potentially represent a group of species whose ecology may be influenced by artificial noise that would have a direct consequence on the functionality and sensitivity of their sensory organs, the statocysts. These are responsible for their equilibrium and movements in the water column. Controlled Exposure Experiments, including the use of a 50-400. Hz sweep (RL=157±5. dB re 1. μPa with peak levels up to SPL=175. dB re 1. μPa) revealed lesions in the statocysts of four cephalopod species of the Mediterranean Sea, when exposed to low frequency sounds: (n=76) of Sepia officinalis, (n=4) Octopus vulgaris, (n=5) Loligo vulgaris and (n=2) Illex condietii. The analysis was performed through scanning (SEM) and transmission (TEM) electron microscopical techniques of the whole inner structure of the cephalopods' statocyst, especially on the macula and crista. All exposed individuals presented the same lesions and the same incremental effects over time, consistent with a massive acoustic trauma observed in other species that have been exposed to much higher intensities of sound: Immediately after exposure, the damage was observed in the macula statica princeps (msp) and in the crista sensory epithelium. Kinocilia on hair cells were either missing or were bent or flaccid. A number of hair cells showed protruding apical poles and ruptured lateral plasma membranes, most probably resulting from the extrusion of cytoplasmic material. Hair cells were also partially ejected from the sensory epithelium, and spherical holes corresponding to missing hair cells were visible in the epithelium. The cytoplasmic content of the damaged hair cells showed obvious changes, including the presence of numerous vacuoles and electron-dense inclusions not seen in the control animals. The lesions described here are new to cephalopod pathology. Given that low-frequency noise levels in the ocean are increasing (e.g. shipping, offshore industry, and naval manoeuvres), that the role of cephalopods in marine ecosystems is only now beginning to be understood, and that reliable bioacoustic data on invertebrates are scarce, the present study and future investigations will bring an important contribution to the sustainable use of the marine environment. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-181
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2013


  • Anthropogenic noise
  • Cephalopods
  • Electron microscopy
  • Statocyst


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