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Proc Biol Sci. 2004 Feb 7;271 Suppl 3:S95-7.

Pacific and Atlantic herring produce burst pulse sounds.

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Bamfield Marine Science Centre, Bamfield, British Columbia V0R 1B0, Canada.


The commercial importance of Pacific and Atlantic herring (Clupea pallasii and Clupea harengus) has ensured that much of their biology has received attention. However, their sound production remains poorly studied. We describe the sounds made by captive wild-caught herring. Pacific herring produce distinctive bursts of pulses, termed Fast Repetitive Tick (FRT) sounds. These trains of broadband pulses (1.7-22 kHz) lasted between 0.6 s and 7.6 s. Most were produced at night; feeding regime did not affect their frequency, and fish produced FRT sounds without direct access to the air. Digestive gas or gulped air transfer to the swim bladder, therefore, do not appear to be responsible for FRT sound generation. Atlantic herring also produce FRT sounds, and video analysis showed an association with bubble expulsion from the anal duct region (i.e. from the gut or swim bladder). To the best of the authors' knowledge, sound production by such means has not previously been described. The function(s) of these sounds are unknown, but as the per capita rates of sound production by fish at higher densities were greater, social mediation appears likely. These sounds may have consequences for our understanding of herring behaviour and the effects of noise pollution.

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