Ecology of sound communication in fishes

Friedrich Ladich

Fishes communicate acoustically under ecological constraints which may modify or hinder signal transmission and detection and may also be risky. This makes it important to know if and to what degree fishes can modify acoustic signalling when key ecological factors—predation pressure, noise and ambient temperature—vary. This paper reviews short-time effects of the first two factors; the third has been reviewed recently (Ladich,). Numerous studies have investigated the effects of predators on fish behaviour, but only a few report changes in calling activity when hearing predator calls as demonstrated when fish responded to played-back dolphin sounds. Furthermore, swimming sounds of schooling fish may affect predators. Our knowledge on adaptations to natural changes in ambient noise, for example caused by wind or migration between quiet and noisier habitats, is limited. Hearing abilities decrease when ambient noise levels increase (termed masking), in particular in taxa possessing enhanced hearing abilities. High natural and anthropogenic noise regimes, for example vessel noise, alter calling activity in the field and laboratory. Increases in sound pressure levels (Lombard effect) and altered temporal call patterns were also observed, but no switches to higher sound frequencies. In summary, effects of predator calls and noise on sound communication are described in fishes, yet sparsely in contrast to songbirds or whales. Major gaps in our knowledge on potential negative effects of noise on acoustic communication call for more detailed investigation because fishes are keystone species in many aquatic habitats and constitute a major source of protein for humans.

Fish and Fisheries
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106051 Behavioural biology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Oceanography, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics, Aquatic Science, Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
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