Studying Fish Sounds

Studying Fish Sounds
Clownfish in Tropical Reef

Science News magazine reported that virtually all fish produce sounds that can be received and interpreted by other fish of their species. While researchers have cataloged over 1,000 fish sounds, the largest group of bony fish contains more than 34,000 species. There is much more work to do in studying fish sounds.

Fish generate sounds differently from humans. They can click bony structures together, contract specific muscles to drum a gas-filled swim bladder, vibrate stretched tendons in fins like a guitar, or even expel gas from their rear ends. Audrey Looby of the University of Florida Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key describes fish as having “probably the greatest diversity of sound-producing mechanisms across the tree of life.”

Fish hear through tiny stones in their heads that move in response to sound vibrations, triggering signals to the brain. They also have special cells running down their bodies that detect motion and sound waves in the water. The uses of sound among fish are still being sorted out. Fish use sound to attract mates and to tell males where the eggs are and when they need to be fertilized. Fish also indicate distress, warning other fish of danger or scare a predator away. Fish use sound to mark territories and to warn other fish who would invade their territory.

There are many practical reasons for studying fish sounds. Knowing how fish use sounds is essential to understanding how they are affected by human sounds in the water. This knowledge also helps us study fish migrations and determine fish populations.

For those who believe God has built into all life the things needed for survival, it should be no surprise that fish use sounds. It may be that Jesus used fish sounds when He summoned fish for Peter to catch in John 21:5-6. Jesus created all things, including fish. (See John 1:1-2 and 14.) There were several instances in the life of Jesus when fish responded to His bidding, even for the payment of taxes (Matthew 17:27).

When studying fish sounds or any aspect of creation, we see God’s wisdom and design. Romans 1:20 tells us we can know God by the things He has made, but each discovery increases our understanding of how awesome God is.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “What Does the Fish Say?” in the March 9, 2024 issue of Science News, pages 18 -23