The ocean might seem like a quiet place, but listen carefully and you might just hear a choir of fish.

Fish off the coast of Western Australia take part in a dawn chorus, just like birds, researchers have found.

Researchers from Exeter University, in the UK, and Curtin University in Perth, Australia, identified seven fish choruses, which varied from “foghorn” cries to “grunting” noises.

Fish take part in a dawn chorus just like birds, scientists have found.

Fish take part in a dawn chorus just like birds, scientists have found.

Over an 18-month period, scientists used noise-logging devices positioned at different points in the coastal waters of Port Headland in Western Australia, New Scientist reported.


Calls in the chorus ranged from a low ‘foghorn’ sound made by the black jewfish, a ‘grunting’ sound made by terapontid, and a ‘ba ba ba’ call from a batfish.

Researchers say the calls from the fish are used in a variety of ways – from announcing their location, to advertising their availability for reproduction, or whether they are engaged in territorial disputes.

Songs were predominantly heard at dawn and dusk, between early spring and later summer.  And the majority of the submarine sounds were solo, repetitive calls from individual fish but the sounds overlapped, creating chorus.

Steve Simpson, a marine biologist at Exeter University, told New Scientist: “You get the dusk and dawn choruses like you would with the birds in the forest.”

The study was led by Robert McCauley and published in the journal of Bioacoustics. 

“We are only just beginning to appreciate the complexity involved and still have only a crude idea of what is going in the undersea acoustic environment,” he said.

The number of recording is growing. About 800 species of fish are believed to produce sound, but as sound can travel for hundreds of metres, researcher have not been able to identify the precise source of each song.