Icelanders are good at catching cod, but have we ever seen them as creatures singing love songs and using dialects? According to British scientists, we probably should. They are now conducting research on whether noise from ships may hamper communication between fish, such as cod, possibly hindering their ability to breed.
University of Exeter Professor Steve Simpson and his colleagues are testing this possibility by dragging hydrophones through coastal waters in the UK to record sounds in the ocean. In other words, they are measuring the effects of noise pollution, the BBC reports.
Compared with other fish, cod have very elaborate calls. “They vibrate with their swim bladder, their balloon inside them, to make sound. They can create a whole range of different pops, grunts and rumblings,” explained Professor Simpson. They use those to navigate, mark territories and warn their group of a threat.
At the time of spawning, the male sings and if the female finds the song charming enough, she releases her eggs. A problem may arise if, for example, she can’t hear the love song. His charming melody might be drowned by the noise of a loud motor. Could that hamper breeding, the scientists wonder.
One area to be investigated is whether cod from different regions use different sounds or accents. Climate change causes fish to move to new waters, and if accents do indeed vary, we may wonder whether a British-born female cod would understand the love song of an Icelandic-born male.
According to the professor, “Cod tend to hang around near the bottom at spawning time, and then a female and a single male will rise towards the surface and he’s got about 10 seconds to get his love song right. If he does, she’ll release her eggs; get it wrong and she’ll swim back down to the bottom.”
A silent hull could limit noise pollution, but we must also hope that female cod have no trouble understanding sounds of love from a different region.