Report of the Sensitivity and Pathology Session

Solé, M.1*, André, M.1*, Heubel, K.2, Day, R.3, Pla, P.1, Picciulin, M.4, Vasconcelos, R.5, Juanes, F.6, Orekhova, K.7, Morell, M.8, De Vreese, S.1

1   Laboratory of Applied bioacoustics. Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. BarcelonaTech, Spain
2   Research and Technology Centre West Coast, Kiel University, Germany
3   University of Tasmania, Australia
4   CNR – Institute of Marine Sciences, Italy
5   University of Saint Joseph, China
6   University of Victoria, Canada
7   University of Padova, Italy
8   University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany

* Session Chairs and Corresponding Authors; E-mail:

This report can be referenced as: Solé, M., André, M., Heubel, K., Day, R., Pla, P., Picciulin, M., Vasconcelos, R., Juanes, F., Orekhova, K., Morell, M., and De Vreese, S. (2023). Report of the Sensitivity and Pathology Session, OCEANOISE2023, Vilanova i la Geltrú, Barcelona, Spain, 22-26 May. Retrieved from



Katia Heubel. Sensitivity of zooplankton to noise: impaired feeding Results of a first study on ingestion and clearance rates of the copepod Acartia tonsa on a motile phytoplankton as a function of prey density exposed to playback boat noise and under ambient control conditions.

Ryan Day. Physiological and behavioural effects of exposure to a commercial seismic survey on the pale octopus, Octopus pallidus. Effects of exposure to an 8,460 in3 array on the pale octopus (developmental delays on exposed eggs, reduced feeding, maternal care of eggs and impairment in the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, damage statocysts).

Pablo Pla. AquaVib: a laboratory setup for exposing aquatic organisms to low-frequency sounds. Preliminary results for various marine invertebrate species. Experimental laboratory setup: the AquaVib. An interchangeable acoustic chamber equipped with sound pressure, particle acceleration, dissolved oxygen, and temperature sensors capped at both ends by a pair of 1 kN-electrodynamic shakers. Preliminary results (effects on physiology based on respirometry measurements, ultrastuctural effects on statocysts (SEM) and effects on hatching and larva survival)

Marta Picciulin. Stability between some and differences between others: which factors drive changes in calling rhythms in Sciaena umbra? A potential influence of boat noise. Methodology for the quantification of the temporal patterning along a sequence of elements (i.e. rhythms) has been developed, showing that S. umbra sounds have a simple isochronous—metronome-like— rhythm. Preliminary analysis to evaluate the consistency in the S. umbra isochronous rhythm in relation to the different range of environmental conditions and anthropogenic pressures characterizing the study areas

Raquel Vasconcelos. Investigating Noise-Induced Physiological Stress, Hearing loss and Behavioral Disruption in Fish. 1) characterization of the natural soundscape and captive noise conditions; 2)impact of noise on auditory sensitivity, inner morphology, and gene expression; and 3) noise-induced effects in early development. 4) First data on the interaction between noise and ageing effects in Zebrafish.

Francis Juanes. Assessing the effects of noise across spatial and temporal scales: from whales to diatoms. Summary of anthropogenic noise effects across species and ecosystems at diferent spatial and temporal scales.

Ksenia Orekhova. A multimodal, evidence-based approach to assessing cetacean central auditory pathways in the context of acoustic trauma—the ventral cochlear nucleus as an exemple. Systematic biomarker validation and quantification as an evidence-based approach to monitoring cetacean Central Nervous System health, assessing potential acoustic trauma, and translational modeling of human neurodegenerative disease.

Maria Morell. Correlation between permanent noise-induced hearing loss and cochlear damage in a harbour seal. Combining morphological and auditory data to validate predictions of cochlear frequency maps based on morphological features.

Steffen De Vreese. Investigating Sensitivity: A Three-Dimensional Reconstruction of Striped Dolphin’s External Ear Canal Neural Network. Reconstruction in 3D of  the complex neural network in a part of the ear canal in striped dolphins to investigate its sensitivity. This study provide a basis for further investigations into the function, morphology, and sensitivity of the complex neural network of the external ear canal in cetaceans.

Key elements of the previous discussion period

Sensitivity and Pathology

Sensitivity is defined as the capacity of response of an individual, or group of individuals, to sound stimuli or noise exposure, with those responses being behavioural, perceptual, physiological and/or anatomical. Pathology associated with anthropogenic sound exposure is fundamentally related to impacts on hearing

Are we asking the right questions?

The answer clearly depends on the aspect/research question that needs to be addressed.

How to deal with long-term consequences?

The key questions are at what levels are effects induced and at what levels do effects begin to become biologically significant.

A number of questions crystallised from this discussion which seem to be most relevant for research on sensitivity in marine animals:

  • How do we deal with the uncertainty resulting from species for which there are few data, limitations in research setup, and different life stages?
  • Do we need to know the lowest hearing sensitivity of all marine animals or can measurements conducted in ambient noise be used to determine sensitivity?
  • What are the masking effects of man-made sounds on marine animals?
  • How do internal state, motivation, context and previous experience affect behavioural responses and should these be taken into account?
  • How should long-term and cumulative effects to be taken into account in assessing the effect of underwater sound on marine animals?
  • Can we adopt techniques from other disciplines to assess population level impacts which are better applicable to marine fauna?

Questions for the next three years

How can we address the ecosystem effects of noise given that we study individuals or at most individual species?

  • Design of the study
  • Species concerned
  • Lab set-up vs. at-sea conditions
  • Projection/Integration/Extrapolation of results in models

Given the importance of assessing an increasing number of species that are probably less sensitive to acoustic pressure, how particle motion measurements (and effects) could be practically integrated in future research?

Are ethic concerns a limitation to assess the sensitivity of marine organisms to noise?

Is stem cell culture a promising approach?