We may think that the ocean is this completely silent liquid mass, we can hear the sound of the waves but we can’t hear a thing under water! We may think that fish are completely mute, but as usual, how little we know!
Robert McCauley and colleagues at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, recorded vocal fish in the coastal waters off Port Headland in Western Australia over a year and half, and the recording below may surprise you as much it surprised me! Fish are very vocal and the recording captured the ‘song’ of three of them ‘harmonizing’ together. Scientists call it a chorus when different calls of many species of fish overlap and form this strange loud noise. They identified many different fish choruses and the ones below are made by the Black Jewfish (Protonibea diacanthus) (which makes a call identified as the low ‘foghorn’), a species of Terapontid (which makes a call identified as the ‘buzzer in the Operation board game’) and a quieter batfish (which makes a ‘ba-ba-ba’ call). This last one had escaped me at the first listening, but it is really there if you listen carefully.
‘I’ve been listening to fish squawks, burble and pops for nearly 30 years now, and they still amaze me with their variety,’ said McCauley, who led the research.
I had no idea fish and sea creatures were so loud! As many species, fish make noises for behavioral reasons such as reproduction, feeding and territorial disputes. ‘You get the dusk and dawn choruses like you would with the birds in the forest,’ explained Steve Simpson, a marine biologist at the University of Exeter, UK. ‘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,’ added McCauley.
This recording is very intriguing, it is like a beautiful loop which goes on and on, it’s strange, mysterious and a bit creepy – what are these fish saying to each other exactly? – but it is melodious and let’s say atmospheric enough to be sampled in a song. I bet someone will get the idea soon.
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