Tell one fish story and a dozen more will follow. The yarn last month about hugging your pet carp elicited the fish story of all fish stories. It came from a reader who will remain anonymous to protect his professional stature.
University of British Columbia, Vancouver scientists apparently with time on their hands have discovered that herring communicate using a noise they call Fast Repetitive Tick (FRT). Ben Wilson of UBC calls it a “high-pitched raspberry.” Newspaper columnist Dave Barry called it breaking wind, but I won't use that term.
Get the picture?
This fish tale made the rounds about a year ago and seems to bubbling to the surface once again.
No leg or finger pulling here. Canadian scientists have actually learned Pacific herring communicate by expelling gas from the same anatomical location people — mostly male people — expel gas.
Everyone heard the squeaky sound Flipper made on television when the smarter-than-man fish warned of danger. Thirty-five years ago scientists identified more than 200 species of fish which made some form of sound: grunts, drums, door-knocks, heartbeats, burps, croaks, crackles, chattering, purring, clucking and even a foghorn.
These noises come from fish bladders. At first scientists thought the herring's noise also came from the same place. However, bubbles broke the surface of the fish tank when the herring made it noise and the keen eyes of scientists discovered the anatomical emission point of those bubbles; thus was born the scientific terms “digestive system venting,” “burst pulse sounds,” and FRT (Fast Repetitive Tick.)
Wanting to plunge deeper into the new, clouded mystery, scientists discovered that herring emissions are not related to diet. Guess there are no Mexican restaurants in Neptune's Locker.
However, the researchers discovered that when the herring population was increased in the fish tank, more FRTs surfaced. This begs to find the scientific truth to the question: are herring as competitive as the male species of Homo sapiens?
Increased herring emissions were found not to be danger signals. The herring practiced digestive system venting only after dark and scientists concluded that this was a way they could locate one another when they could not be seen. Not going there.
This is all good to know, according to the scientists who sniffed it out. For one thing it will be easier to find herring. They will be easier to count and maybe be kept off some endangered species list. Fishermen may be able to catch more herring. Just follow the bubbles.
This information also could be useful for ocean swimmers fearful of attracting shoaling herring. No one would want to create paranoia among herring frantically searching in vain for lost brethren. Might lead to oceanic bureaucratic regulations.
For those who still think this is a spoof from a demented editor, it is the truth. The Discovery Channel, NewScientist.com news service and Dave Barry all say it is fact. It did not come from Dan Rather.
If you still are shrouded in disbelief, log on to http://www.zoology.ubc.ca/~bwilson/herring.html and listen to the unmistakable sounds of a fast repetitive tick, a high pitched raspberry, digestive system venting and a burst pulse sound.
Then proclaim to everyone that is was not Colorado Barking Beetles they heard, but shoaling herring.
e-mail: [email protected]