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Soundscape manipulation enhances larval recruitment of a reef-building mollusk.

ABSTRACT

Marine seafloor ecosystems, and efforts to restore them, depend critically on the influx and settlement of larvae following their pelagic dispersal period. Larval dispersal and settlement patterns are driven by a combination of physical oceanography and behavioral responses of larvae to a suite of sensory cues both in the water column and at settlement sites. There is growing evidence that the biological and physical sounds associated with adult habitats (i.e., the "soundscape") influence larval settlement and habitat selection; however, the significance of acoustic cues is rarely tested. Here we show in a field experiment that the free-swimming larvae of an estuarine invertebrate, the eastern oyster, respond to the addition of replayed habitat-related sounds. Oyster larval recruitment was significantly higher on larval collectors exposed to oyster reef sounds compared to no-sound controls. These results provide the first field evidence that soundscape cues may attract the larval settlers of a reef-building estuarine invertebrate.