'Squeaker' catfish communicate across generations

Jan 29, 2010
This is an auditory evoked potential recording. Credit: Lechner et al., BMC Biology

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

This is a Synodontis schoutedeni catfish. Credit: Oliver Drescher


Explore further: Sheepdogs use just two simple rules to round up large herds of sheep

More information: Ontogenetic development of auditory sensitivity and sound production in the squeaker catfish Synodontis schoutedeni, Walter Lechner, Lidia Eva Wysocki and Friedrich Ladich, BMC Biology, www.biomedcentral.com/bmcbiol/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Eel-like catfish can 'walk' on land

Apr 13, 2006

A researcher at Belgium's Ghent University reportedly has discovered an eel-like catfish that can wriggle out of the water to stalk prey on land.

Poisonous Poisson

Dec 04, 2009

In contrast to the exhaustive research into venom produced by snakes and spiders, venomous fish have been neglected and remain something of a mystery. Now, a study of 158 catfish species, published in the ...

Study Shows Sonar Did Not Harm Fish

Jul 05, 2007

A new University of Maryland study in the July issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America reports that high powered sonar, like that used by U.S. Navy ships, did not harm test fish, including their ...

Recommended for you

Zombie ant fungi 'know' brains of their hosts

Aug 25, 2014

(Phys.org) —A parasitic fungus that reproduces by manipulating the behavior of ants emits a cocktail of behavior-controlling chemicals when encountering the brain of its natural target host, but not when ...

User comments : 0