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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 14:46 GMT
Fish fill water with idle chatter
Herring are apparently bubbly company
Some fish communicate through the bubbles they release from their bodies, according to marine research.

Dr Bob Batty, a British scientist who studied at Nottingham Trent University, is spearheading the research into how herring communicate.

The fish swallow air and then squeeze bubbles out of a small opening creating a noise.

Dr Batty's work was nominated for an Ig Nobel award, which recognises science which makes people laugh.

Small openings

Dr Batty, who works with the Scottish Association of Marine Science in Oban, has named the fish noise a Fast and Repetitive Tick (FRT).

It actually comes from their swim bladder - and they are blowing it out of a small opening near their bottoms
Dr Bob Batty

He said the bubbles were not flatulence in the true sense as they had nothing to do with the digestive system.

He said: "These little bubbles ... they only do it in company - if they are alone they don't do it.

"You put two together and they do it occasionally and it increases the more there are.

"It actually comes from their swim bladder - and they are blowing it out of a small opening near their bottoms - they fill the bladder by gulping air at the surface.

"It sounds like a fart but higher pitched," he told BBC Radio Nottingham.

"In effect, the herring are using their swim bladders as whoopee cushions."

The noises may also be anti-predator tactics or "incidental results of buoyancy compensation", the scientists believe.

The research has been carried out in conjunction with Canadian scientists at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on Vancouver Island.

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