Can fish talk?


| 4 Comments

To some extent, yes. Of course not like how they do in Finding Nemo, but in a way, fish do have their own language. Not at all like our human one, fish use various methods to communicate with each other, including auditory, visual, and olfactory ways.

tankgang.jpg

 

Auditory:

To answer how fish communicate with each other by sound, first I have to answer the question that yes, fish do have ears. Although their outer ear is nothing like a humans, remarkably their inner ear in extremely similar to ours. Also, in the water sound travels extremely well over long distances, allowing fish to "hear" relatively easily. So what sounds do the fish make to one another? They make a variety of sounds, including chirping, clicks and buzzing to make themselves heard. In fact, some fish can even rub their bones or teeth together to let off sounds.

 

Visual:

When communicating visually, fish most commonly use their coloration. Contrary to popular belief, fish scales aren't colored at all; they're merely a transparent covering of a fish's skin. Underneath the scales are what are called chromatophores. These are bags of pigment that are under muscle control. When the muscles of a fish contract and relax, pigment is released to give off a different colors, depending on the messages they're trying to convey.

 

Olfactory:

Although the sense of smell fish have vary greatly between species, smell is still greatly used to convey messages between fish. "Pheromones" are chemical signals that are used in transmitting messages from one fish to another using a certain scent.

 

So what??

Using these 3 methods of communication, what kind of messages do fish send to one another? Fish have a bunch of different reasons for communicating with each other, mostly mating, maintaining territory, and navigation. Visual communication is especially important in mating, because giving off certain colors to a potential mate is how fish most often attract one another. Fish use smells and scents often to keep predators away from their home. Also, fish also use sound to locate lost members of their school, or to orient themselves.

 

 Something else I was curious about while writing this blog is whether or not all fish "talk". The answer is no. Some fish are more talkative and others stay relatively silent. This was observed by New Zealand researcher, Shahriman Ghazali. When he put various types of fish into a tank he found that some fish, like gurnard, were extremely talkative, while the Cod and goldfish in the tank didn't make any noise apart from when they were spawning.

 

So there you have it, even though fish cant talk like Nemo, they are still able to communicate to one another in order to get their message across.

4 Comments

It's always so interesting to look at the blogs because they get me thinking about things I wouldn't be considering otherwise. Animal communication is a prime example. After I read this I did some further research on the subject. According to an article from Animal Planet, (http://animals.howstuffworks.com/animal-facts/animals-communicate.htm) "Whale song, wolf howls, frog croaks, bird chips -- even the waggle dance of the honeybee or the vigorous waving of a dog's tail -- are among the panoply of ways animals transmit information to each other and to other denizens of the animal kingdom." The article offered a lot of interesting information about both verbal and non-verbal communication techniques and even explained that some animals use chemical cues to communicate.

I was wondering. Is there a universal color code among fish for example: red means stay away? If so, what would the various colors mean and could they be manipulated by through experiments to act a certain way alone or towards another fish?

Corey, that is a great idea for an experiment. I was fascinated by the color pigment bags you spoke of Jamie. My question is similar to Corey's... do they get to choose what color they emit in order to send their specific message, or does it just happen involuntarily?

And as far as changing their appearance to attract a mate, I know that peacocks and birds of paradise choose to poof up their tail feathers and dance around- do fish choose to make their colors beautiful? Or is this also involuntary? If this is the case, I wonder why some animals visual changes occur self willingly and others naturally?

Your post had me wondering if other under-sea creatures also communicate. I was specifically wondering about dolphins, as I already know that they use echolocation in order to get a sense of their surroundings. Looking into it, I found this article: http://news.discovery.com/animals/dolphin-talk-communication-humans-110906.html

In this article, I read that dolphins do communicate to each other, through a way that is very similar to humans, just at a higher pitch. Dolphin calls sound like whistles. The sounds are produced by tissue vibrations analogous to the operation of vocal folds by humans and many other land-based animals. In addition to the whistle-like sounds, dolphins produce chirps and click trains, suggesting they engage in very complex and sophisticated social interactions. In terms of what the dolphins are communicating, it's known they share information about their identity, helping them to stay connected even while traveling in vast bodies of water. However, many scientists believe that they are communicating many more complex things because of the wide variety of whistle-like sounds, chirps, and clicks. More research is currently underway attempting to analyze the meanings of these various sounds, and it will be extremely interesting to see what is discovered!

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