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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 22:08 GMT 23:08 UK
Finding Nemo musical 'solution'
Finding Nemo - Nemo (left) with Dory
Finding Nemo - Nemo (left) with Dory
The task of Finding Nemo in the hit movie would have been easier had his family used the 'Pied Piper' technique, say scientists.

Marine biologists at the University of Edinburgh have lured tropical fish - similar to clown fish like Nemo - onto artificial reefs using fish noises.

Recordings of fish were played through underwater speakers.

The university's Stephen Simpson said its study was "a significant step" in understanding their behaviour.

The study, which focuses on damsel fish and cardinal fish in the Pacific Ocean, also warns that 'unnatural' noises created by shipping and drilling may be depleting fish stocks in sensitive areas.

We studied two of the most important reef fish families on noisy artificial reefs compared to silent ones
Stephen Simpson
University of Edinburgh

Previous research has shown that the larvae of coral reef fishes develop in open seas, away from reefs where predators lurk.

Despite spending weeks at sea as larvae, potentially scattered over many miles, young coral reef fish eventually seek out a permanent home.

A few lucky survivors make it back to their natal reef, grow into adults and produce offspring, but most do not.

Studies have hinted that the young fishes' behaviour determines where they end up as much as ocean currents.

'Dangerous times'

The tests showed that noisy artificial reefs enticed more fish than silent ones.

Mr Simpson, who is working with scientists in Australia and New Zealand, said: "Coral reef fishes live in dangerous times because of overfishing and damage to their natural habitat.

"We are particularly interested in the importance of sound.

"Reefs are noisy environments, with the crackle of snapping shrimps and the chatter of fish set against a backdrop of wind, rain and surf, but sound travels well underwater, and fish have great hearing.

"We studied two of the most important reef fish families on noisy artificial reefs compared to silent ones.

"The damsel fish were drawn to the high frequency noise of snapping shrimps, while the cardinal fish responded to both high and low frequency noises produced by shrimps and other fish.

"It should also alert policy-makers to the damage that human activities like drilling and shipping may have on fish stocks because they drown out the natural cues given by animals."

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