Fish Communication

Can fish "talk?" And if they do, can other fish hear what they are saying?

The answer to both questions is yes, but fish "talk" and "hear" somewhat differently than humans. Although not extremely common, there are several species of fish that are able to produce sound to communicate with members of their own and other species. Most of the fish that produce sound do it at such low frequencies that divers cannot hear the noises. But several species do produce sound in the range that humans can hear. For example, grunts are able to produce sound by grinding their flat teeth together (hence the name grant!) The large Jewfish, Nassau and Black groupers are known to make very loud "booms" when startled or cornered. Jewfish have also been observed to make these loud sounds during courtship.

Of all reef fish, damselfish are thought to use sound the most complexly. These fish use sound when males and defending territories: two males are often seen facing off and emitting a series of combative pops. In addition to playing a part in defending its territory, damselfish also use sound during courtship, as the jewfish does. However instead of the loud booms of the jewfish, the male damselfish produce chirps to attract females.

Reef Brief is a weekly column published in the San Pedro Sun
So, if fish can talk, how do other fish hear these noises if they don't look like they have ears? Fish actually do have ears but they aren't as easily apparent as humans because there is not an outer ear structure. They do have an elaborate inner ear system that allows them to hear. Located next to the brain is a series of interconnected fluid-filled canals. IN these canals is a calcium carbonate ear stone (referred to as the otolith) that is embedded in a nest of hair like sensory cells. It is with this system of canals and otoliths that enables fish to perceive sound.

This week's Conservation Tip: Use Low Flush Toilets -- In your household, 40% of the pure water is flushed down the toilet. You can use small plastic bottles, filled with water or stones to displace the amount of water in toilets. This will cause it to be a "low-flush toilet," or you can use a displacement bag in your tank. Both save you 1-2 gallons per flushWith a plastic bottle you will be saving 8-16 gallons of water every day (if you flush 8 times a day), 56-112 gallons per week, and 2,900-5,800 per year.

For more information on Green Reef please contact us at (email: or telephone us at 226-2833.

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