There seems to be the idea out there that fish are something along the lines of mindless, swimming robots with three-second memories and no ability to feel pain. The Discovery Channel show Mythbusters disproved that myth about their memories (as did Dr. Kevin Warburton, a researcher from Charles Sturt University). Not long ago, I addressed the myth that fish cannot feel pain.
Already a great deal has come to light that shows fish are a lot more complex than we thought. But fish are not yet finished having their say. The next area to address? Language.
It has long been accepted that whales communicate with each other through calls that resemble song. This may be such an easily acceptable fact not only because we can hear them, but because we know that whales are, like us, mammals. Yet new research indicates that whales are not the only sea creatures with fins who communicate with sound.
Through vibration of a muscle called the “swim bladder,” some species of fish are capable of making a range of sounds, from chirps to grunts. These noises are used to send important signals to others of their kind, perhaps while seeking a mate, or even to frighten away predators. The noises and reasons for them can be very specific, according to University of Auckland scientist Shahriman Ghazali. Cod, for instance, only “speak” while spawning, to make sure they time things properly to fertilize the eggs.
This new development must make us reconsider the assumption that fish are “dumb” animals, by any meaning of the word. The ability to communicate demonstrates a level of intelligence that is sure to shock many. I know that I am excited by this new finding and the potential it implies. I can’t wait to see what we’ll find out next. Because the more we learn about any creature, the more we are able to relate to it, and can no longer see it as some mindless thing with which we can do as we please. The more we learn, the closer we come to a day when these creatures are shown the respect they deserve.
Photo credit: Public Domain