Q. Dear Twig: Can fish talk? Make sounds? Bloop? Bleep?
A. Not counting Nemo and Dory and friends (and Mr. Limpet) (and Rainbow Fish), fish can't talk like you and I talk.
But some fish actually do make noises meant for other fish to hear. The noises sound like clicks or ticks or grunts or even whistles.
Some fish do it to attract a mate. Some fish do it when courting each other. Some fish do it when bothered or threatened — for instance, when hooked and yoinked from the water.
"Many fishes have evolved the ability to produce sounds by drumming the swimbladder with specialized muscles or bones," a University of South Florida Web site explains.
Indeed, scientists say that hundreds of species — the oyster toadfish, the striped searobin, the Atlantic croaker, to name just a few — make sounds your ears might not believe.
Hear for yourself! Dig some cool samples at http://www.fishecology.org/soniferous/sound_demo.htm.
P.S. Check out the squidgy wet rubber-shoe sounds of the hot rockin' cool northern puffer!
Notes: The Web site mentioned is by an adjunct assistant professor with the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Rodney Rountree. Also check out his amazing assortment of recorded fish groans, moans, honks and mystery (oo!) noises at http://www.fishecology.org/soniferous/justsounds.htm. Find the University of South Florida Web site, which has sound samples, too, at http://www.marine.usf.edu/bio/fishlab/fish_sound_production.htm. If you're really into fish sounds now — and who wouldn't be? — there's even a "Fish Sounds" CD you can buy. Read all about it at http://www.gso.uri.edu/fishsounds/Notice.html.
About this column: "Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," a free public service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences - specifically, of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Extension, both part of the College - is a weekly column for children about science, nature, farming and the environment. The reading level typically rates at grades 3.5-4.5. For details, to ask Twig a question, and/or to receive the column free by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, CommTech, OSU/OARDC,1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, firstname.lastname@example.org, (330) 263-3776. Online at http://extension.osu.edu/~news/archive.php?series=science.