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'Squeaker' catfish communicate across generations

Date:
February 1, 2010
Source:
BioMed Central
Summary:
It has been thought that young fish, lacking well-developed hearing organs, could not perceive the sounds made by their larger, older relatives. Now, researchers have used a combined fish tank and sound-proof chamber to show for the first time that catfish of all ages can communicate with one another.
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This is a Synodontis schoutedeni catfish.
Credit: Oliver Drescher

It has been thought that young fish, lacking well-developed hearing organs, could not perceive the sounds made by their larger, older relatives. Now, researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Biology have used a combined fish tank and sound-proof chamber to show for the first time that catfish of all ages can communicate with one another.

Walter Lechner and a team of researchers from the University of Vienna studied the catfish Synodontis schoutedeni, which, by rubbing the spines of its pectoral fins into grooves on its shoulder, is able to create a 'squeaking' sound.

He said, "This study is the first to demonstrate that absolute hearing sensitivity changes as catfish grow up. This contrasts with prior studies on the closely related goldfish and zebrafish, in which no such change could be observed. Furthermore, S. schoutedeni can detect sounds at all stages of development, again contrasting with previous findings."

The catfish use the squeaking sound to warn of predators and during competition between members of the species. By investigating the animals in specially modified tanks, Lechner and his colleagues were able to record the sounds made and perceived by fish of various sizes, from very young to adult.

"We found that as fish get larger, the sounds they make increase in level and duration. Hearing sensitivities increase with growth, but even the youngest fish are capable of communicating over short distances," he said.


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by BioMed Central. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Walter Lechner, Lidia Eva Wysocki and Friedrich Ladich. Ontogenetic development of auditory sensitivity and sound production in the squeaker catfish Synodontis schoutedeni. BMC Biology, 2010; (in press) [link]

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BioMed Central. "'Squeaker' catfish communicate across generations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100129082912.htm>.
BioMed Central. (2010, February 1). 'Squeaker' catfish communicate across generations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 2, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100129082912.htm
BioMed Central. "'Squeaker' catfish communicate across generations." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100129082912.htm (accessed July 2, 2015).

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