Sounds Fishy: New website features directory of fish sounds from around the world

If you’ve seen fish in an aquarium or pond moving their lips, you might be surprised to learn that they were probably making sounds that at least other fish could understand.

Observers have long documented the songs and trills of birds around the world, distinguishing different species from each other and the purported meanings of their sounds. Additionally, whales and dolphins sing and squeal and use sound for echolocation.

Yet it’s still surprising to many people that fish make sounds, researcher says Audrey Loby from the University of Florida, lead author of a new study published in Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries.

“You could argue that they’re as important for understanding fish as bird sounds are for studying birds,” Looby said.

Scientists have discovered that fish have been using sound to communicate with each other for millions of years. (Michal B./Unsplash)

“Fish sounds contain a lot of important information,” she said, adding that they can communicate about predators, food, sex and territory. “And when we can match fish sounds to fish species, their sounds are like a calling card that can tell us what kinds of fish are in an area and what they’re doing,” he said. she declared.

While previous studies have fish sounds recorded and analyzedmany of these recordings were not available to the public until now.

To advance the understanding of fish sounds, Looby and a team of collaborators created the first interactive online repository of fish sounds.

On the website, you’ll find audio files and sound visualizations of fish to browse, organized by species and sound name. If visitors select the “boop” sound, they can hear Bocon’s toad (Amphicthys crytocentrus). In its native habitat in Central American and Caribbean countries, it is known as Bocón, which in Spanish means “loudmouth”. He is closely related to a fish that Looby researches while working at a biological research station in Cedar Key, Florida.

A piranha (Serrasalmus sp.) auditioned for sound production by one of FishSounds collaborators, Rodney Rountree. (Rodney Rountree, The Fish Whisperer, Rountree & Juanes, 2018)

“There is not yet a standard system for naming fish sounds, so our project uses the sound names that the researchers found. And who doesn’t love a fish that boops? Looby said.

She and the creators of expect visitors to the website to contribute their own recordings of fish sounds. The team is working on other interactive features, including a clickable world map with fish sound data points.

The researchers looked at scientific reports of fish sounds dating back nearly 150 years. Toads and other deep-dwellers have organs or structures that produce “active sounds.” Other fish make passive, accidental sounds such as chewing, but even these can transmit information.

Pink skunk clownfish, one of many fish that produces sound to communicate. (Kieran Cox)

Some fish have names that pay homage to the sounds they make, such as croakers, grunts, and catfish cries. The study found that nearly 1,000 species of fish emit active sounds and several hundred have been studied for passive sounds. However, these figures may not be exact. Since sound travels faster underwater than in air, the researchers concluded that emitting sound is effective for communication, especially in low-visibility areas.

For scientists, conservationists and the fishing industry to study the movements and location of fish, they could use underwater microphones called hydrophones. But the identification of the species emitting the sounds will be important.

“There are probably a lot of fish sounds that just haven’t been recorded. This is why we will continue to review new published studies and add [them] to the repository. This is truly an international project… with much more to come,” said the study’s co-author. Kieran Cox from the University of Victoria, British Columbia.

Edited by Siân Speakman and Kristen Butler

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Sherry J. Basler