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Communication Below Surface

Have You ever tried to talk to someone below surface ? It´s not exactly easy to hear one another, - let alone to detect what is supposed to be the meaning of the blurred air bubbles, ascending towards the surface, containing Your voice vibrations. And being humans, we even have voices… What about the voiceless beings living below surface ? How do they communicate ? Do they even communicate ? If so - How ?

In this editorial we will be seeking out some of the different methods ocean beings communicate below surface, - and discover if these methods can be understood by humans as well.

Photo by Adrian RF

“Le monde du silence” - “A Silent World”,

- this is the title of one of Jaques Cousteau's most famous movies… Though, perhaps not completely accurate, since what You will experience diving into the big blue, is anything but silence.

If You go diving by a coral reef, clicks, buzzes, stones rolling in the current, sand sizzling on the sea bed and clasps from small fishes seeking out something eatable on the coral reef, - and loads of other sounds will fill your ears. Yet, of cause, a coral reef, is almost comparable with a busy capital, only below the surface. Though wherever you plunge into the ocean, sounds made by the ocean inhabitants will dominate the silence.

Something we might also experience when submerging into the big blue, is a growing problem with huge consequences in our modern day… A problem which we have not seized a solution to handle, - noise from human activity, - like motors running, drilling etc.

Though, we wont fokus on this issue now, since this is material for another editorial, - Though until this editorial is ready, You are able to read about human caused noise in the Ocean by following the link below :

Photo by Matthaeus
Most of the sounds hearable for humans below surface, is not communication between the locals, - but mainly the locals dining…

There are many different ways of communicating in the Ocean. But most of this communication between ocean inhabitants is at such a low frequency, that the human ear is not able to catch the vibrations. Bennies, Gobies, Sculpins are among those who communicate at very low frequencies.

Though is is possible for us to hear some ocean beings “conversations”.

Take for instance the clownfish.

At a first glance it appears to be a quiet little fellow, - though in fact, a quite noisy fish, with the ability to become really vexed with unwanted neighbors.

Photo by Desmond Williams

Studies on clownfish communication, by combining X-Ray technology and High-Speed video showed that clownfish are able to produce 5 clicking sounds per second with their jaws.

Also, it is almost concluded that the vibration and frequency of the clownfish clicks, differs for individual clownfish, - just like human voices are not alike !

You can read more about this study by following the link below :

It has been known for roughly 80 years, that clownfish “warn” their enemy or family by producing a clicking sound, when they feel threatened, since this in fact is possible for humans to hear.

But how so ?

Normally, fish would like to stay as quiet as possible, since making large sounds brings on attention, - like from unwanted predators. But the small clownfish has a unique advantage ! It has a symbiotic relationship with the posenous anemone that all other fish prefers to avoid.

So this small fish, can be as loud as it likes, and can even use this as a major advantage, since a loud noise can fright off unwanted neighbors !

Different cases on how the popular clownfish uses this method of communication has been made, - and a quite spectacular story was revealed !

Photo by Pascal Van De Vendel

Some ocean beings dont mind to wait for a meal…

And one of these beings happens to be one of the fastest hunters in the ocean, - and the clownfishes “most dreadful enemy” - the frogfish !

The frogfish is a quiet, and at first glance slow being, that is believed to use one of the worlds most common ways of communication - by light, - which we will get back to later.

Frogfish has found that trying to lure in clownfish, by using their biofluorescent Esca - that resembles a worm on a fishing rod, can be a quite rewarding strategy.

Time after time, frogfish has been found, sitting next to the clownfishes anemone-home, though exactly distant enough to avoid the anemones stinging touch, - but close enough to pursue hypnotize or fool the clownfish to come close enough for the oceans fastest hunter to work its magic !

Like for instance the video below :

But some clownfish have discovered the frogfish “lunch strategy”, - and this seems to hurt the clownfishes feelings, - or rather, make them quite vexed with the sneaky predator. So it has been discovered, that clownfish sometimes communicate with one another, by producing these clicking sounds, to apparently, create a strategy to leave the anemone-safehouse together, and forge an attack to kill the predator, - before the predator catches itself a nemo-snack ! This is an example on how communication is also vital for Ocean beings ! As mentioned before, it is still uncertain how exactly the frogfish communicate, but it is believed that they communicate to one another by using light… Something that has discovered to be one of the most popular methods of communication in all of the world. In an earlier editorial “Seeing in the dark - Or ?...”, it was explained how creatures in the deep sea are able to find their way around in the darkness, - one of the ways being producing light themselves.

Photo by Jack B

And producing light is also a vital way of communication !

You can follow this link to watch a short film explaining about bioluminescence as a common form of communication on this planet :

Or read about new results on shining a light on underwater communication :

Most of the acknowledged communication happening below surface, is communication about these 4 things :

  • Alerts on Danger

  • Finding a Mate

  • Luring in Prey

  • Scaring off Rivals

Though, it is also accepted by the scientific world to discuss the "higher intelligence" of ocean beings and their more complex ability to communicate, which we are still working on decoding.

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov

Take for instance the grouper and the moray eel…

It was discovered that some ocean animals are able to communicate to create corporations between species, - something that was denied as a possibility only few years ago !

If You watch the video below, You will be able to watch a grouper and a moray eel help one another hunting on the reef.

By using gestures, like the grouper shaking its head, - groupers and moray eels apparently tend to understand one another and team up to go and hunt on the reefs !

This type of communication is called “referential gestures” and You are able to read more about these types of gestures and partnerships when hunting in the Ocean, by following the link below :

It has also been discovered that octopuses and groupers are able to communicate, - by the grouper pointing with its head, and wiggling its tail, and the octopus color-changing, - Yet another type of communication !

Photo by Bryan Burgos

So, Ocean beings do communicate with one another, even across species, and there are many different types of communication below surface ! Though, it is still fairly new territory for humans to understand, - and science is continuing to explore "the silent world"... which perhaps is not so silent after all.

By Blue Reporter, Naja Bertolt Jensen


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