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The University of Southampton

Research project: A study of clicking sounds in the coastal waters - Dormant

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Clicking sounds of biological origin in UK shallow waters

Listening on a hydrophone deployed in the shallow inshore waters around the southern half of the UK will often result in a loud clicking sound being heard. This sound consists of a wideband pulse less than a millisecond in length and with significant energy to over 100 kHz. The frequency of peak energy is around 2-5 kHz, depending on the acoustic environment. The sound occurs randomly and there may be up to 300 clicks per minute. The geographical distribution is often clumped. There is also an annual variation in click activity with a significant reduction in click activity from November to May.

This sound is believed to be of biological origin but despite a number of attempts by various researchers it has so far not been possible to identify the species causing the clicks. Species suggested include crustacea, fish, and molluscs.

Work is now in progress to characterise the clicks, map out the geographic extent of the sounds, measure any annual variations in activity, and to attempt to positively identify the species causing the clicks.

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