Airdate: Nov 25, 2004
Scientist: Dr. Suzanne Dorsey
Damselfish: The Tune of a Fish
Snaps and clicks are all part of a male damselfish's elaborate courting ritual.
ambience: sound of male damselfish
We’re listening to the underwater sounds of a male damselfish. It’s all part of an elaborate strategy used to attract a mate. I’m Jim Metzner and this is Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPoint. Suzanne Dorsey works with the Earthwatch Institute to study the damselfish population off the West coast of Barbados.
"The fish are territorial and they use both posturing, that is they flare their fins, they’ll actually charge anything that’s coming at them and they will, of course, bite. In addition to this, they will swim at you and make a sound and it’s made in their air sac. They also make this sound when the males are courting females. As a male approaches a female, he’s trying to impress her with his vigor and so he postures, he flares, he swims in tight circles and he’ll also make this sound, and it’s all an indication of how strong and how viable he is as a potential mate."
While Dorsey is making these observations underwater, both she and the Damselfish are getting used to teach other’s company.
"I see the damselfish on a daily basis and I because I become almost intimate with individuals I know their particular characteristics and I know their personality characters, and that’s what’s fun about this type of work. You do have to go back day after day, and yet day after day you’re learning that an individual damselfish has quirks. One might be absolutely accepting of your coming over and borrowing his nest, his eggs for a few minutes. The other one absolutely refuses and will follow you all the way up to the camera. That’s the fun of the research is that they’re quirky, they’re individuals."
Suzanne Dorsey’s work will help manager’s of marine reserves better understand how to protect dwindling populations of tropical fish.
Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.