When a family is thinking about moving into a new neighborhood, they will scope out the area first and see if it is any good. In a similar vein, the larvae of coral pick a place to call home based on the sounds made by the animals there, said American researchers.
Once a larva decides to settle down on the surface of a reef, it will permanently lose its ability to move. So it has to pick a very good spot that is safe, has plenty of food, and contains other corals of the same species.
A study conducted by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) figured out the means by which coral larvae make that important decision. The animals apparently listen to the soundscape of a reef to determine if the formation is a good home.
The soundscape is the sum of all the sounds made by the animals in the area. A healthy reef enjoys a very diverse soundscape, while a barren one is either as silent as the grave or filled with the ominous sounds of whatever it is that rendered it lifeless. (Related: Be sure to buy biodegradable sunscreen to protect coral reefs.)