Scientists have made some amazing discoveries. Researchers are using digital bioacoustics to record the sound of life on Earth.

Many of the hidden sounds of nature can be heard above or below human hearing range, thanks to the placement of these digital microphones all over Earth. The naked human ear can't hear a lot of non-human conversations. Humans can record nature's sounds beyond their sensory capacities with the help of digital bioacoustics. Researchers are using artificial intelligence to decode communication in other species.

Scientists are learning a lot as they listen to nature. Many species that we used to think were quiet actually make noise. Sea turtles in the Amazon make more than 200 different sounds. Turtle hatchlings make sounds while still in their eggs to coordinate their birth. The first scientific evidence of parental care in turtles, which were previously thought to simply abandon their eggs, has been found by Ferrara.

This is likely to be the beginning of discoveries about turtle noises. More than 50 species of turtles are thought to be non-vocal, thanks to the work of Gabriel Jorgewich-Cohen.

Bats make sounds which contain a lot more complex information than was thought. The discovery of bat echolocation was made nearly a century ago. Researchers are beginning to understand the sounds bats make. Scientists have discovered that bats remember favors and hold grudges, that they go quiet when ill, and that they use vocal labels that reveal individual and kin identities. Like birds, male bats learn territorial songs from their fathers and sing them to defend their territory and find mates.

In Costa Rica, Mirjam Knrnschild's research has shown that sac-winged bats babble to their babies in motherese, similar to humans. Scientists had no idea that bats could communicate complex information in their vocalizations.

In nature, acoustic tuning is a common practice. The coral and fish are able to return to their homes by imprinting on the sounds of the reef where they were born. Moths are able to hide themselves from the bat's sound. The leaves of flowers and vines reflect echolocation back to bats. The buzz of bees causes flowers to flood themselves with liquid. Tomatoes, tobacco and corn are some of the plants that make noise above our hearing range.

An artificial intelligence program was trained to listen to tomato plants and determine if they were dehydrated or wounded by listening to different sounds. Some insects and animals are able to hear the sound of plants making noise. Plants could be signaling their state to other animals. Humans are only beginning to understand nature's mysteries of sound.

Scientists are trying to use digitally enabled discoveries to develop tools for interspecies communication with creatures as diverse as honeybees and whales. Do we have the right to eavesdrop on non- humans? The claim that humans, alone, possess language is challenged by complex communication in animals. When we know about the biases in artificial intelligence, what are the risks of engaging other species?

The pressing challenge of noise pollution, the reduction of which can have immediate, positive and significant impacts for non-humans and humans alike, should not be forgotten. It is a challenge of our time to keep the human noise to a minimum. Digital listening shows us that we have more to learn about non-humans and how to protect the environment. Someday, we will create a zoological version of the internet translation service. We need to know how to listen.

  • The Sounds of Life: How Digital Technology is Bringing Us Closer to the World of Animals and Plants was written by Karen Bakker.