Gossiping Fish with Regional Accents at Risk!

  | The CV Centre

     

Scientists are reporting that the seas around Britain have become so noisy that fish species like cod and haddock are having problems communicating with each other. They are also investigating if fish along the British coastline have regional accents.

University of Exeter professor and marine biologist, Steve Simpson, has been leading a team which have tested the coastal waters around Britain by dragging hydrophones to record the sound of the marine environment.

Fish make distinct sounds, using their bladders, to assert territorial claims, seek mates and “gossip” with other fish in the shoal. However, these “chatty” fish are being drowned out by the noise of boat engines, oil and gas exploration, and other human-produced noise.

Professor Simpson said: “we may find that the “gossip” essential to their society is being drowned out. If we value our fish stocks – or our Friday night fish supper- we need to understand this”.

“Seawater is hundreds of times denser than air – this means sound travels much faster and further.”

Another area of study is focusing on whether regional fish populations all vocalise slightly differently – akin to a human regional accent. Research has already shown that European cod have distinct dialects compared to their transatlantic American cousins. Such “dialects” have previously been noted in a whole range of animals from songbirds to killer whales, and has also been documented in clownfish.

“This species is highly vocal with traditional breeding grounds established over hundreds or even thousands of years, so the potential for regionalism is there”, said Simpson.

A concern – especially in the light of climate change driving cold-water species further north - is that incoming and resident populations are slow to recognise each other’s vocal repertoire, inhibiting integration and breeding.

 Professional Simpson’s work is being presented at “Into the Blue”, a nine day conference held In Liverpool and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37556523

          http://news.sky.com/story/noise-pollution-leaves-chatting-fish-struggling-to-be-heard-10605985