Tiny fish, big noise: One of the world’s smallest fish is as loud as a jet engine

It’s the little fish that roared.

One of the world’s smallest fish, measuring about half an inch long, can produce sounds as loud as fireworks or a jet engine, a new study says.

Danionella cerebrum, a species of fish discovered only about three years ago, are tiny translucent fish that live in shallow streams in Myanmar. They are no more than 12 millimeters long and have a "unique sound-generating" organ that can make noises of more than 140 decibels, an international research team said in a news release Tuesday.

"This tiny fish can produce sounds of over 140 decibels at a distance of 10 to 12 millimeters – this is comparable to the noise a human perceives of an airplane during takeoff at a distance of 100 meters and quite unusual for an animal of such diminutive size," study author Ralf Britz, an ichthyologist at the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden, Germany, said in the release.

Though large animals are generally more capable of making louder noises than small animals, certain small species can unexpectedly be just as noisy. Elephants can produce noise of up to 125 decibels with their trunks, but the snapping shrimp uses its claws to generate a popping sound of up to 250 decibels, according to the researchers.

Other small animals capable of loud noises are the flightless kakapo, whose mating calls can reach 130 decibels, and the male plainfin midshipman fish, which can attract females with an "audible vibrato" of about 100 hertz and 130 decibels, the researchers say.

“Fishes, on the other hand, are generally considered to be rather quiet members of the animal kingdom,” Britz said. “However, there are certain fish species that can be surprisingly loud."

Danionella cerebrum have a 'special sound-generating apparatus'

The researchers used high-speed video recordings, microcomputed tomography and gene expression analysis to show that males of the Danionella cerebrum have a "special sound-generating apparatus," according to the release. The apparatus includes a drumming cartilage, a specialized rib and a fatigue-resistant muscle.

To make noise, the fish hits the drumming cartilage against its swim bladder, a gas-filled cavity or organ that is predominantly used to control buoyancy, the study says. The movement produces a rapid pulse in high and low frequencies.

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“This apparatus accelerates the drumming cartilage with a force of over 2,000g and shoots it against the swim bladder to produce a rapid, loud pulse," Britz said. "These pulses are strung together to produce calls with either bilaterally alternating or unilateral muscle contractions."

According to the study, no other fish uses repeated unilateral muscle contractions for sound production. Danionella cerebrum presumably uses the sounds to communicate with one another through murky waters, the researchers said.

“We assume that the competition between the males in this visually restrictive environment contributed to the development of the special mechanism for acoustic communication,” Britz said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Newly found fish can make sounds as loud as fireworks or a jet engine