If you have the opportunity to speak with any fish, we suggest you don’t choose herring. Herring communicate by shooting a burst of bubbles out of their anus. The sound they make is a fast, repetitive tick that some researchers have compared to “blowing a raspberry.” In this article we look at the surprising world of Fish Communication.
The Surprising world of Fish Communication
Fish communication isn’t just about audible signals, other senses also play an important part. Body movements, postures, colors and color patterns are the primary means of visual communication. Fish also communicate by releasing chemicals called pheromones. These are chemical signals produced by an animal that, when released, influence the behavior of others of the same species. The sense of smell is important for this form of communication. Lastly sound is also used for communication which ofcourse we’d dearly like to associate with a sort of Fish language – unfortunately fish don’t have a language but sound is used to interact with other fish.
Fish Sound Signals
While herring may specialize in that delightful form of communication, they’re far from the only fish that make noise. In fact, the ocean is filled with a rich and varied array of sounds. Researchers are only beginning to understand the full spectrum of sounds that fish make and how they use them to communicate.
How Fish “Talk”
There are three main ways fish produce noise :
Vibrating the Swim Bladder
Toadfish are drummers. They use muscles attached to or near their swim bladder to beat against it. These muscles can contract extremely quickly, moving more times per second than a hummingbird’s wings.
A catfish, on the other hand, uses a method called stridulation to produce their distinctive grunts. Their sound can be described as “a creaky door — cat meowing type of sound.” The noise is generated by bones rubbing together at the base of the spine, similar to the way you could play a hair comb by plucking its tines.
Fish can also create sounds underwater by using hydrodynamics, or the water itself. When spawning, parrotfish move so quickly back and forth through the water that they generate a turbulent noise. They are literally swishing through the water. They can basically go from a standing start to 40 miles an hour, spawn, turn really quickly in the water and dart back down.
Why Would Anyone Care About Talking to a Catfish?
We’ve known that fish make noises for thousands of years. Pull a grouper out of the water and you can hear for yourself. But since sound travels exceptionally large distances underwater, most fish are very strategic and quiet about the noises they emit. It was only with the invention of underwater microphones, called hydrophones, after World War II that science really started listening to fishes, and hearing sounds from many more kinds of species. Now, scientists are combining those hydrophones with cutting-edge underwater video cameras and near-silent scuba equipment to take the most accurate recordings of fish to date. Billions of dollars are spent managing fisheries internationally, but information about the number of fish and behavior is largely guesswork. For example, spawning is often monitored by catching fish and cutting them open to see if they have eggs inside. With their new measurements, scientists are now able to match specific sounds to behaviours, which gives a more accurate and complete picture. Recordings of specific spawning noises would be a much quicker and less invasive way to monitor the health of a fish population.
The U.S. Navy is also very interested in research on underwater noises. Ever since the invention of the submarine, sailors have struggled to differentiate between natural noises and those of enemy ships.