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Singing Fish In San Francisco Bay: Facts About

Singing Fish In San Francisco Bay: Facts About
Atlantic midshipman ( Porichthys plectrodon ). Gulf of Mexico. NOAA Photo Library / Flickr CC BY 2.0

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Singing Fish In San Francisco Bay: Facts About

It has been proven in the past by scientists that some qualities and skills are after all not only unique among humans as what we previously thought, including the ability to sing.

As it turns out, a team of researchers from Cornell University has found out that male Porichthys fish or commonly referred to as the midshipman fish (Porichthys notatus), sings to attract females during mating season and this mechanism is controlled by the hormone melatonin, the researchers concluded in a study they recently published in the science journal Current Biology.

What Causes Singing Fish?

Melatonin is the same hormones that control sleep and wakefulness in humans and are activated by the amount of light. But in midshipman fish, the same hormones do not only control its circadian rhythm, but also other purposes, including courting females and marking its territory.

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In order to determine what causes this rather peculiar ability, the researchers have isolated midshipman fish in a controlled environment where the amount of light was regulated.

The sample was collected from the shores of California and Washington where midshipman fish abound. But apart from the roles of melatonin to the fish’ sleep and wakefulness, it also plays a crucial role in different social behaviors, including mating and socialization as well as in vocalization.

Reproduction, Socialization

Andrew Bass, Neurobiology and behavior professor from the Cornell University, in a report from Reuters, said that midshipman fish are among the few sea creatures that are capable of complex vocalization skills, along with whales and dolphins.

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“In the early 1980s, a mysterious sound caused concern for houseboat residents of Sausalito Bay, California, who suspected the source might be the pumps of a nearby sewage plant, an underwater power line, some secret experiment by the Navy or maybe even extraterrestrials,” Bass was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Bass added that their vocal reproduction ability plays a crucial role not only in their reproduction, but also in socialization—an ability that’s unique to select few sea animals.

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