Fish can eavesdrop on the calls of dolphins to avoid getting eaten, a new study suggests. “Probably a lot of fish can do this,” said lead researcher Luke Remage-Healey, a behavioral neuro-endocrinologist at University of California, Los Angeles.
A bottom-dwelling fish found off the coast of Florida called the gulf toadfish is prime prey for dolphins, which often listen to toadfish calls to find their targets. In fact, 80 percent of bottlenose dolphin diets containing sound-producing fish. But whether the toadfish peels its “ears” toward dolphins has remained a mystery.
Remage-Healey first suspected that gulf toadfish could listen in on hungry dolphins’ calls two years ago while recording the mating calls of the male toadfish off the Gulf coast of Florida. The fish were hanging out above their nests. “Then, they all stopped calling,” Remage-Healey recalled. “My field assistant noticed dolphins foraging right over the toadfish site, and we heard we were recording dolphin sounds instead.”