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Temporal and spatial mapping of red grouper Epinephelus morio sound production

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Abstract

The goals of this project were to determine the daily, seasonal and spatial patterns of red grouper Epinephelus morio sound production on the West Florida Shelf (WFS) using passive acoustics. An 11 month time series of acoustic data from fixed recorders deployed at a known E. morio aggregation site showed that E. morio produce sounds throughout the day and during all months of the year. Increased calling (number of files containing E. morio sound) was correlated to sunrise and sunset, and peaked in late summer (July and August) and early winter (November and December). Due to the ubiquitous production of sound, large-scale spatial mapping across the WFS of E. morio sound production was feasible using recordings from shorter duration-fixed location recorders and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Epinephelus morio were primarily recorded in waters 15–93 m deep, with increased sound production detected in hard bottom areas and within the Steamboat Lumps Marine Protected Area (Steamboat Lumps). AUV tracks through Steamboat Lumps, an offshore marine reserve where E. morio hole excavations have been previously mapped, showed that hydrophone-integrated AUVs could accurately map the location of soniferous fish over spatial scales of <1 km. The results show that passive acoustics is an effective, non-invasive tool to map the distribution of this species over large spatial scales.

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