FishSounds.net is the first online interactive library of sounds made by fish when they communicate or interact with their environment. –ScienceDaily

The cows moo. Wolves howl. The birds tweet. And the fish, it turns out, also makes quite a ruckus.

“People are often surprised to learn that fish make sounds,” said Audrey Looby, a doctoral student at the University of Florida. “But you could argue that they’re as important to understanding fish as bird sounds are to studying birds.”

The sounds of many animals are well documented. Go online and you’ll find plenty of resources for bird calls and whale songs. However, a worldwide library for fish sounds was once unknown.

That’s why Looby, University of Victoria collaborator Kieran Cox, and an international team of researchers created FishSounds.net, the first-of-its-kind interactive online repository of fish sounds.

Site visitors can browse audio files, sound visualizations and more. Fish sounds are organized by species and sound name. Select the sound name “boop” and you’ll be able to listen to recordings of the Bocon toadfish, which also happens to be a close relative of the fish Looby is researching for his thesis while based at the UF/IFAS Nature Biological Station Coast in Cedar Key, Florida.

“There isn’t yet a standard system for naming fish sounds, so our project uses the sound names the researchers found,” Looby said. “And who doesn’t love a fish that boops?”

The creators of the library hope to add a feature that will allow people to submit their own fish sound recordings. Other interactive features, such as a world map with clickable fish sound data points, are also in the works.

Fish make sounds in several ways. Some, like the toad, have evolved organs or other structures in their bodies that produce what scientists call active sounds. Other fish produce incidental or passive sounds, such as chewing or splashing, but even passive sounds can still convey information.

Scientists believe that fish evolved to make sound because sound is an effective way to communicate underwater. Sound travels faster underwater than in air, and in low visibility conditions it ensures that the message still reaches an audience.

“Fish sounds contain a lot of important information,” said Looby, who is pursuing a doctorate in fisheries and aquatic sciences at the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “Fish can communicate about territory, predators, food and reproduction. And when we can match fish sounds to fish species, their sounds are a kind of calling card that can tell us what kinds of fish are in an area and what they are doing.”

Knowing the location and movements of fish species is essential for environmental monitoring, fisheries management, and conservation efforts. In the future, marine, estuarine or freshwater ecologists may use hydrophones – special underwater microphones – to collect data on the location of fish species. But first, they’ll need to be able to identify the fish they hear, and that’s where the Fish Sounds Database can help.

FishSounds.net was born out of the research team’s efforts to collect and review the existing scientific literature on fish sounds. An article summarizing this literature has just appeared in Journals in fish biology and fisheries.

In the article, the researchers reviewed scientific reports of fish sounds dating back almost 150 years. They found that just under a thousand species of fish are known to make active sounds, and several hundred species have been studied for their passive sounds. However, these are likely underestimates, Cox explained.

“There are probably a lot of fish sounds that just haven’t been recorded. That’s why we’ll keep looking at new studies coming up and adding them to the repository. This really is an international, global project with a lot more to come,” Cox said.

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Material provided by University of Florida. Original written by Samantha Murray. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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