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Clownfish "noisemaker"

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( http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20070623/note16.asp --probably only available to subscribers)


Science News Online

Week of June 23, 2007; Vol. 171, No. 25


Clownfish noisemaker is new to science

Susan Milius


Researchers have figured out how clownfish make "pop-pop-pop" noises at each other. The secret turns out to be an unusual tooth-clacking mechanism that scientists had never before documented.


Plenty of fishes make noises, explains Eric Parmentier of the University of Liège in Belgium. Most species either scrape bones together or vibrate air-filled swim bladders.


Those mechanisms don't generate sound with the right frequencies or other qualities to explain the noises of the clownfish Amphiprion clarkii, says Parmentier. These striped reef fish chirp or pop during courtship or daily life around the reef, or when an intruder looms.


To study the sounds in that last scenario, Parmentier and his colleagues worked with Michael Fine of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. The lab team combined a high-speed video camera with X-ray equipment and recorded the fish's bone movements at 500 frames per second, 20 times the speed of a typical movie.


When a male clownfish sees an intruder, he opens his jaws and then lifts his head, causing unusual ligaments to snap the jaws shut. The popping sound comes from the front teeth smacking together. The researchers tested the idea by sabotaging the ligament. When its jaw couldn't snap shut, the fish was mute, they report in the May 18 Science.


Fish have evolved diverse ways of making sound, says Parmentier, and he predicts that the cichlids that he's studying now use yet another mechanism.






If you have a comment on this article that you would like considered for publication in Science News, send it to editors@sciencenews.org. Please include your name and location.








Parmentier, E. . . . M.L. Fine, et al. 2007. Sound production in the clownfish Amphiprion clarkii. Science 316(May 18):1006. Abstract available at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/316/5827/1006.





Michael Fine

Department of Biology

Virginia Commonwealth University

Richmond, VA 23284–2012


Eric Parmentier

Laboratoire de Morphologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive

Institut de Chimie

Bâtiment B6

Université de Liège

B-4000 Liège








From Science News, Vol. 171, No. 25, June 23, 2007, p. 398.





Copyright © 2007 Science Service. All rights reserved.

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My husband and I have both heard our clownfish "chirp" to each other, anyone else heard this?

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Booo! I wish we would have kept that pair longer...I knew there was a reason not to trade them for coral!


Damn g/f can't take a clownfish nibble :(

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  • 2 weeks later...

I had a tomato clown that was in a tank I treated with Melafix (Coral Beauty injured) and he evermore freaked out over the treatment, clicking and clacking for several minutes. It didn't hurt him though, and cured the coral beauty.

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I wonder if the scientists are aware of non-territorial vocalizations like that? BTW, what sort of treatment is Melafix...i.e., any idea why it upset the clown?



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Obsessed Reefer

So that's what that noise was. When I first started hearing it, I though it was a mantis or something, but it didnt sound like banging, and I closely inspected the rock for the next few nights with a LED, and saw nothing. Then it stopped when I traded my clown to the lfs, never connected with me in my head. But hey, its summer, I'm not supposed to think a lot.

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I wonder if the scientists are aware of non-territorial vocalizations like that? BTW, what sort of treatment is Melafix...i.e., any idea why it upset the clown?




Melafix is a treatment for marine ich and infections made from the Australian Tea Tree. Very aromatic. My coral beauty had a hole in his side you could see his bones through, cured him in a matter of days, and today 4 years later, not even an irregularity in his scale pattern. Worked well in that case, but ####ed the tomato clown off!!!!!

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That is so interesting! Someone even pm'd me a link to a description of it. I'm glad to learn of this--guess you can tell I don't have much marine fish experience.


Now one wants to know just what does and what does not elicit this behavior in clownfish...Anyone need a thesis topic? :)



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learned something new as well! i always thought it was a imaginary pistol shrimp! funny thing is they only do it at night though? (true percs)

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  • 2 weeks later...

very interesting article. thanks for sharing. too bad my pump and fans are too loud for me to hear what noise my clown is making ... guess I need get a new tank to hear that.

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They made the clown mute! Now he can't pop lock and drop it.


Research sometimes isn't pretty... :( I thought the verb used was interesting: "the researchers tested the idea by sabotaging the ligament..." Sabotaging? Is that a common research and/or medical term?


And I'll bet the fish didn't even get paid for taking part...



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And here I thought I had a hidden pistol...

Now maybe.... it could be Dale Jr. & Danica (osc. pair)

But, they're only 8 months old... aren't they a little young?

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Don't know specifically about clowns, but in practically every animal I've kept the males reach sexual maturity before the females...

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Funny, I have been away for a while and said "I'll post this when I get back"..looks like someone beat me to it.

In any case, my lab wishes we had a microphone near the nano..we could have published in Science, lol


Oh well maybe another time

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