Great Cormorants Can Hear Underwater

Posted on June 12, 2017

The Cormorant Loke

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have discovered that great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) can hear underwater. This is the first time research has shown marine birds can hear underwater. The researchers note that about one tenth of bird species hunt underneath the water so the ability is something that would greatly aid in their hunting ability.

A cormorant named Loke was the subject of the research study published in The Science of Nature. Researchers Kirstin Anderson Hansen, Alyssa Maxwell, Ursula Siebert, Ole Næsbye Larsen and Magnus Wahlberg tested Loke's hearing ability. Loke lives at SDU's marine biology research station in the Danish town of Kerteminde.

The researchers say Loke's hearing abilities are on par with the hearing of the toothed whale and the seal. Loke can hear sounds ranging between 1 and 4 kHz. This is within the range of sounds produced by fish like the sculpin and herring.

Man-made sounds can also fall into this range. The ability to hear underwater means disruptions like ships, military sonar and construction work can cause problems for birds. Take a look:



Image: University of Southern Denmark