Clownfish talk to establish status in social groups
Clownfish produce sounds to ascertain and defend their breeding status in social groups, not to attract mates, a new study has found.
Previous studies showed that clownfish live in unique social groups, where the largest fish develops as a female, the second-largest is male, and the rest of the group remains gender neutral. If the largest fish dies, the rest of the group moves up a rank to replace the female and male.
This new research by Orphal Colleye and colleagues from the University of Liege, Belgium, studies the importance of sounds made by the fish in this social structure, and finds that clownfish sounds are of two main kinds: aggressive calls made by charging and chasing fish, and sounds made by submissive fish.
The authors also found that smaller fish produced shorter, higher frequency pulses of sound than larger fish.
According to the authors, these acoustic signals are especially significant for clownfish given the size-based hierarchy of their social structure.
The findings are published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.