Fish Raise Their Voices in Auditory Confusion, Too

by Owen James Burke


(Illustration: Kyle T. Webster/The New Yorker)

Apart from grunts, toadfish and croakers (named for obvious reasons) there are “over 800 fish species known to hoot, moan, grunt, groan, thump, bark or otherwise vocalize,” writes The New Yorker. It is assumed that these fish do so in order to communicate, but now scientists say that they even tend to raise their voices in certain environments, too. But why?

One reason, scientists say, is the same that French doctor √Čtienne Lombard pointed to in humans in 1909, is that when these fish are surrounded by chaotic, ambient noise, or a “deaf-making apparatus,” they alter the volume of their speech reflexively. Just like you, when you try to have a conversation with blaring headphones over your ears, or your geriatric grandfather when his television program is too loud.

Read more, and listen to sound clips of different fish voices, on The New Yorker — OB

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