Why Some Fish Fart
Fish (some types of herring, to be specific) fart. Furthermore, the herring use flatulence to communicate, to alert other fish and form “protective shoals” at night.
Yes, one species’ anti-social behavior is quite the opposite for another.
Marine biologists have found that some types of herring, using air gulped from the surface and stored in their swim bladders, create high-frenquency sound bursts (up to 22 kilohertz) by expelling air through their anuses. From video, Robert Batty, senior research scientist at the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban, says that he and other scientists could actually see bubbles emanating from the fishes’ anal ducts. The sound produced was “very much like someone blowing a high-pitched raspberry” (go here to hear it). The noises seem to have the purpose of communication because the fish fart in darkness and when there is high fish density — that is, at times when they have a need for alerting each other.
While other marine fish do use sounds (some cod make their swim bladder vibrate to produce a kind of drumming sound), so far it’s only some herring species that seem to use the art of the fart to communicate. Ben Wilson, a marine biologist at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre, British Columbia, Canada, and his colleagues have given the phenomenon its own special name, Fast Repetitive Tick — or FRT, to use the acronym.
Even more, scientists have been airing concerns about the possible impact of noise pollution on the herrings’ form of communication. Engine noise from ships or seismic guns used for oil surveys could interfere not only with the herring’s hearing, but also with that of those who feed on them, dolphins and whales. These animals rely on hearing farts — that is, FRTs — to find their food.
Some fishy things mean more than words can say.
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Photo by derekkeats