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The Secret Language Of Fish
By Matt J. Weiss, February 23, 2008 @ 02:00 AM (EST)
Source: Telegraph.co.uk
The vivid colours of coral reef fishes represent a 'language' that dates back at least 50 million years but is still baffling to humans in many respects, a leading fish expert concedes today.

A copperband butterflyfish draws attention away from its head
Colour in fish is probably a highly developed form of communication, some of which we can interpret, but much of which remains cryptic, admits Professor David Bellwood of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University, Queensland.

Fossil specimens of reef fish from Monte Bolca, Italy, studied by Prof. Bellwood reveal that even as far back as 50 million years ago fish were spotted, striped and probably highly coloured also.

Fish colour appears to communicate both information - useful for finding mates and advertising status in the pecking order - and disinformation, intended to mislead predators and competitors.But there is no easy explanation for the rainbow displays of the most spectacularly brilliant reef fish, he says.

"Colour is one of the languages fish use to communicate. By brightening or darkening their hues they can display aggression or fear, identify mates, advertise status, hide from danger and probably many other things we can only guess at," he says.

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