This little spiny lobster is so loud it can be heard almost 2 miles away

It's like the underwater equivalent of scratching a chalkboard, but more musical.

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Eric Mack
2 min read

This spiny lobster can get loud.

Oceanographic Museum of Monaco

A surprisingly small species of sea creature has been recorded making enough of a racket the sound can be detected almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) away underwater.

A team of French and American researchers stuck a bunch of hydrophones in shallow water to eavesdrop on European spiny lobsters (Palinurus elephas) that produce noises called antennal rasps by rubbing part of their antennae against a sort of "file" below their eyes. As you can hear in the video below, it sounds a little bit like the animal is auditioning for a zydeco band.

After recording 24 spiny lobsters off the coast of France at a distance of up to 328 feet (100 meters), the scientists analyzed the sound data and estimate that in an environment with minimal background noise, the rasps made by the largest lobsters (about 6 inches or 14 centimeters long) could be detected up to 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) away under the water. The findings were published Thursday in Scientific Reports

These communicative crustaceans don't deserve all the credit for the propagating power of their sounds, of course. The density of seawater allows sound to travel over much longer distances compared with air. Marine mammals like whales and dolphins are known to communicate over impressive distances underwater, and even fish in shallow waters make sounds that propagate as far as the equivalent of a city block or further.

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The researchers speculate that the rasps may be used to communicate or ward off predators, although they believe the hearing capacity of the animals may be less sensitive than the devices used in the experiment

"We can conclude that the communication distances are much shorter than the detection ranges," they write. 

Even if the lobsters aren't giving long-distance concerts, the scientists say being able to detect them from such great distances could help survey and manage their population in the face of overfishing.