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One of the world’s tiniest fish can make noises louder than an elephant, new study says

A new study has uncovered a tiny fish species’s ability to produce a huge sound.

Danionella cerebrum is 10 to 12 millimeters, or about 0.4 to about 0.5 inches, long and lives in shallow, murky waters in Myanmar, according to a news release from the Senckenberg Natural History Museum.

Ralf Britz, an ichthyologist at the museum, and an international research team recently examined the species in a study published Feb. 26 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They found that the fish can generate noise levels of over 140 decibels, which is unusual for an animal of its size.

The fish, “one of the smallest vertebrates,” produces the sound at 140 decibels up to the distance of its body size, researchers said.

Fish are generally considered to be quiet animals, Britz said in the release. But the volume is comparable to what a human would hear at about 330 feet away from an airplane taking off, the museum said.

It’s louder than a flightless kakapo’s mating call, which reaches 130 decibels, and an elephant, which can up to 125 decibels with their trunks, according to museum officials.

The males of the species have a unique sound-producing structure, the researchers found. It includes a tympanic cartilage, a special rib and a fatigue-resistant muscle.

The mechanism shoots the cartilage at the swim bladder — an organ that allows fish to maintain their depth “without floating upward or sinking,” according to Britannica — and creates a “rapid, loud pulse,” the study said.

“These pulses are chained together to make calls with either bilaterally alternating or unilateral muscle contractions,” the study said.

Researchers said the fish use the mechanism to communicate with other members of the species.

The results of the study challenge the idea that the speed of skeletal movement in vertebrates is limited by muscle movement, the museum said.

The fish are used as models for biomedical research, according to museum officials.

Google Translate was used to translate the news release from the Senckenberg Natural History Museum.

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