cover image Sing Like Fish: How Sound Rules Life Under Water

Sing Like Fish: How Sound Rules Life Under Water

Amorina Kingdon. Crown, $30 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-44277-7

“The ocean is not and has never been a silent place,” according to this exquisite debut inquiry. Exploring how noise shapes marine life, science writer Kingdon cites studies that found every dolphin develops a unique whistling call to identify itself to others and that frillfin goby fish grunt to coordinate their mating ritual. Some marine mammals can echolocate, Kingdon explains, noting that belugas emit clicks to lock onto prey while hunting, and that dolphins use the noises to gain information about the thickness and material of nearby surfaces. Delving into the anatomy of underwater hearing, Kingdon expounds on how fish ears have hair cells, moved by vibration, that brush against small organs called otoliths, generating nerve impulses to the brain. Kingdon’s descriptions are as edifying as they are evocative, as when she writes of her attempts to record the hubbub of Cape Cod’s Bass River: “The cusk-eel chorus rises highest, each voice chattering over another, accompanied by a gentle chorus of toadfish boops, layered like synthesizer notes.” Nature enthusiasts will be troubled by her discussion of how shipping, sonar, and powerful undersea air guns used to search for oil and gas reserves are dramatically disrupting marine life. This will open readers’ eyes, and ears, to a heretofore hidden world. Agent: Gillian MacKenzie, Gillian MacKenzie Agency. (June)