Although they may lack some of the melodic qualities of birds or whales, there are nearly 1,000 species of fish that use sounds to communicate, and possibly many more.
However, despite nearly 150 years of contemporary scientific research on sound production by fish, there was no global inventory of fish species known to make sound. Until now
Fishes are one of the largest groups of sound-producing vertebrates, with sound-producing abilities estimated in the thousands of the 34,000 species worldwide.
Our research team, led by Audrey Looby, conducted a systematic review examining nearly 3,000 citations. We pulled data from over 800 different studies to determine that 989 species have been shown to produce active sounds worldwide.
We use our findings to create FishSounds, an online database that lists your sounds.
Wait, do fish make sounds?
Although the sound production of fish is not as widely recognized as that of birds, frogs, bats, or whales, people have long known that fish can make sounds.
Aristotle discussed fish sound production and possible hearing over 2,000 years ago. And looking at the common names of many fish, such as growlers, croakers and drummers, it’s clear that their sounds have also been known to anglers for a long time.
Fish also have a wide variety of mechanisms for producing their sound. Instead of vocal cords, they may have adapted bony structures that can rub or click, while others use their swim bladder like a drum.
Some fish even make sounds by blowing air on their butts. Yes, communication by “gas”.
They may use sound to communicate information about breeding, territory, or food.
Because sound travels faster in water than in air, fish can hear signals over greater distances and faster than by sight, smell or taste.
To see some examples, listen to the complex calls of the Bocon frogfish, the ticks of the scabbardfish and a chorus of freshwater drums.
Thanks to our review, we can now detail which species and how many species have been documented to use sound to communicate. Actively soniferous (sound-producing) fish have been found in marine, freshwater, and brackish (slightly salty, such as where rivers meet saltwater) environments in almost all parts of the world.
They were also found in the fish taxonomic tree, in 133 of the 549 fish families.
listen to fish
Many other animals, including birds, dolphins, and crabs, can listen to the sounds of fish to eat, avoid being eaten, and navigate to suitable habitats.
Underwater animals aren’t the only ones who can hear fish sounds. We use a remote sensing technique called passive acoustics to record underwater sounds and learn more about fish and their environment.
Fish sounds have been used to detect invasive species, monitor spawning and identify critical habitats. Chewing sounds have even been used in aquaculture to optimize feeding.
There is also growing evidence that human activities through noise pollution, habitat degradation and climate change are affecting the ability of fish to produce and hear sounds essential for reproduction and their survival. This has potentially detrimental effects on entire fish populations or communities.
Using our World Fish Sound Review as a framework, FishSounds makes the data we collect available to other researchers and anyone else interested in aquatic ecosystems. Users can search by species, save or review information. We also provide information about our data and links to other relevant websites.
We are also compiling recordings of the many sounds made by fish, with 239 recordings currently available and many more to come.
We plan to expand our data offerings and functionality, including regularly updating our database to include new searches and records, implementing a form submission system that people can use to upload audio files of fish sounds and creating interactive searches that allow users to visualize trends in data.
FishSounds also collaborates with other data repositories and efforts, including FishBase, and contributes to a global library of underwater biological sounds.
Since over 95% of species lack published research on sound production, we hope to build on what we already know and support future work on the wonderful world of sounds.
This article was written by Audrey Looby. It was published on The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Articles in English