Noise – The Web of Life (10)


Noise is a problem for all that encounter it. Whales subject to noise from ships are impaired in their communication.

In a long-running demonstration that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron, the US Navy has blasted the seas for decades with sonar assaults that discombobulate and kill marine mammals. Taken to court for the senseless killing, the American Supreme Court saw no problem with it.

Bird chicks in a noisy habitat are less likely to survive. The continual stress can be fatal.

Urban birds alter their songs and calls to be heard over traffic. Similarly, insects adjust their sound signals to surmount the sonic assault of city slickers.

A common technique to overcome noise is repetition. Many animals repeat calls in rapid succession. This helps the receiver confirm what it thought it heard.

Even cells are subject to noise. Living in tissue can be near-constant cacophony, so cells tune out distracting chatter to concentrate on the chemical communiqués that matter. They shift the molecular mix of signals to improve the odds of reception. When cells replicate, they pass their successful techniques on to the next generation.