Have you ever noticed that when you submerge your face underwater, there are drastic differences in your senses? Even with masks and goggles, our eyes see color differently. Our reflexes slow down along with our heartbeat, as the diving reflex kicks in. One of the most pronounced changes in our senses is actually in our hearing.
Sound travels five times faster underwater than through the air, and we can hear higher frequencies underwater. Underwater, a far off speedboat sounds as if it were right on top of you.
One of the most common sounds while diving in the Maldives is a distinct knock followed by scraping and crunches. For the untrained ear, it might sound like there was someone running a hammer against concrete. The sound is actually from the Parrotfish. A member of the Scaridae family, the beautiful fish has a face that resembles the beak of a parrot, from which it gets its name.
Parrotfish are herbivores that feed off the algae and dead coral, creating loud sounds that are easily audible underwater. They are an important part of the ecosystem and serve the crucial role of removing the algae and other detritus off of coral and clearing space for new coral to grow.
Next time you are underwater, see if you can hear the parrotfish. It might be hard at first trying to distinguish it from all the other sounds. But once you hear that distinct knock and scraping, you’d know you have heard the parrotfish. Happy listening!