Monday, August 29, 2011

Episode 77 (August 29, 2011): A Medley of Fish Sounds

Click to listen to episode (2:18).

Please see below (after the transcript and show notes) for links to news and upcoming events.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of August 29, 2011.

First, let me express sympathy for the victims of Hurricane Irene and gratitude to the utility workers, first responders, public officials, and citizens who assisted in preparation and response to that widespread storm.

Now this week we feature another series of mystery sounds.  Have a listen for about 20 seconds and see if you can guess what general group of animals is making this medley of crunching, drumming, and tapping sounds.  And here’s a hint: this medley would never be heard on the AIR-waves.


If you guessed fish, you’re right!  The crunching you heard was a Northern Puffer, a small fish ranging from Newfoundland to Florida and found along the bottom of shallow Chesapeake Bay waters from spring to fall.  The drumming was an Atlantic Croaker, found in Atlantic and Gulf Coastal waters.  And the tapping was a Striped Cusk-eel, a small fish common in Atlantic coastal waters from New York to Florida.  Along with these three species, hundreds of fish species are known to make sounds, either to attract mates, show aggression, or for other as-yet-unknown reasons.  Thanks to Rodney Rountree of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst for permission to use these recordings from his “Fish and Other Underwater Sounds” Web site.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

Acknowledgments: The sounds and information in this episode were previously used in episodes 18, 30, and 44.  The fish recordings in this episode were from Rodney Rountree’s Fish and Other Underwater Sounds Web site at; used with permission.  The original source of many of the fish sounds at Dr. Rountree’s Web site is a file of fish sounds created by Marie Fish and William Mowbray as a companion to their book Sounds of Western North Atlantic Fishes: A Reference File of Biological Underwater Sounds (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1970).   
More information: For other fish sounds, visit the Cornell University MacCauley Library’s online archive of bird, amphibian, fish, and other sounds:  For an introduction to sound-making by fish: What’s Making that Awful Racket?  Surprisingly, It May Be Fish, New York Times, 4/8/08.
Sources: Information on the Northern Puffer (Sphoeroides maculatus) was taken from the Web site; from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s online “Bay Field Guide” at; and from Life in the Chesapeake Bay-3rd Edition, by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), p.273. 

Information on Atlantic Croakers (Micropogonias undulates) is available from the Web site, and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Web site at

Information on the Striped Cusk-eel (Ophidion marginatum) was taken from the Web site.  Information on sound production by the Striped Cusk-eel is available in “Sounds Produced by the Striped Cusk-Eel Ophidion marginatum (Ophidiidae) during Courtship and Spawning,” by David A. Mann, Jeanette Bowers-Altman and Rodney A. Rountree, Copeia, Vol. 1997, No. 3 (Aug. 1, 1997), pp. 610-612.

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