Scientists record fish choruses 'singing' at dawn

KENPEI
CC BY-SA 3.0 I, KENPEI

We might not find whales singing in their own dialects such a outlandish idea, but the notion that different fish can sing in choruses somehow seems farfetched. But according to a team of scientists from Curtin University in Perth, Australia, they do, and not only that, their songs may actually help us better understand their ecosystems.

According to the New Scientist, the team of four scientists recorded the sounds in the waters of Port Headland in Western Australia for a period of 18 months, and recently published their findings in the journal Bioacoustics.

After filtering out all the extraneous sounds, they were able to identify the vocal sounds of seven distinct fish choruses, occurring at dawn, dusk, or both -- a phenomenon that is analogous to the daily calls of birds.

What's interesting is that these fish songs -- which are mostly heard during the area's wet season between late spring and early autumn -- can give scientists clearer, long-term clues about how fish are going about feeding, hunting, marking territory and reproducing.

To record the the sounds, two sea-noise loggers, placed about 21 kilometers (13 miles) apart, were used. The method is useful for round-the-clock collection of data for long periods of time, especially in waters with poor visibility. Along with other kinds of tracking technology like self-powered fish tags, scientists are able to get a better picture of how fish populations are faring.

So while one may not think much initially about the variety of sounds emanating from fish, there's a lot of information in these underwater sounds, says study co-author Robert McCauley:

I’ve been listening to fish squawks, burble, and pops for nearly 30 years now, and they still amaze me with their variety. We are only just beginning to appreciate the complexity involved and still have only a crude idea of what is going on in the undersea acoustic environment.

You can hear the sound samples of three fish choruses over at New Scientist.

Tags: Australia | Fish | Nature Blows My Mind

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