The Loh Down On Science

Coughing Seafood

Cover your cough, scallop?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying, yes, even delicious marine mollusks cough.

At least that's what scientists call it. It's the way scallops expel poop and other junk from their body cavity. To do it, the animals flex the powerful muscles that open and close their shells. What you hear is a whooshing noise. Listen: .

Now, French scientists say listening for scallop coughs is a good way to indirectly monitor water quality.

Why? Because when water quality is bad, scallops eat less. That means there's less waste to expel, so there's less coughing. Using underwater microphones called hydrophones is a relatively easy way to monitor scallop eating habits.

After first recording scallop sounds in the lab, the team listened for them in the wild. Turns out they could hear scallops coughing many dozens of feet away.

Meh, even if that is the sound of healthy water, I think I’ll take the shrimp.  Thank you.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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