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Do Carp Communicate?

Do carp warn other carp of potential danger? We ask Simon Scott for all the answers...

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Is there any research going on at the moment into how and whether carp communicate, and what are your findings or beliefs? Do you feel that they warn others of potential danger? LUKE WILLIAMS, VIA FACEBOOK

Simon Scott: To the best of my knowledge, there’s no significant ongoing research into how carp communicate. However, after a fair few years of both farming them and fishing for them, I do have a few thoughts on the subject.

Carp are generally social creatures and there’s a lot of communication and interaction that goes on between them. Firstly, they watch each other. As I have already alluded to, they have excellent eyesight and having watched fish interacting with each other, sight clearly plays a role in their day-to-day lives and in respect of their communication.

Carp can also hear and feel each other. They have excellent hearing, and their lateral line gives them a sort of side-scanning radar which affords them a great deal of awareness about what other fish around them are doing. I firmly believe that carp can hear each other chewing food for example. On many occasions I’ve witnessed carp feeding on hard baits like tiger nuts. These are inherently crunchy, and as I’ve watched individuals feed, others have joined them, that have appeared to have come to investigate the source of the noise.

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Many years ago, I used to keep reasonably large carp in an aquarium and if I fed the fish floating pellets, water snails or tiger nuts when the pump and aerator were turned off, I could hear quite easily, the sound of the fish crushing the food items with their pharyngeal teeth. Now if I could hear those sounds, there’s absolutely no doubt that the other fish in the tank could also hear them.

I also believe that carp can smell each other as they travel around their environment. Carp, like most other fish, constantly produce, and also exhibit slime on their outer surface. This slime rubs off the fish as they pass through weedbeds and snags. I believe that other carp pick up on the smell of this slime as they move around. This may sound a little far-fetched, but remember that this is an animal that has an amazingly acute sense of smell, one that can detect bloodworm buried deep in the sediment, or a single tiger nut on the bed of the lake. If we walk into a swim where an angler has caught a carp or two, it’s the smell that gives it away… there’s not another odour like it! It might be a little bizarre, but nonetheless conceivable then, to consider that carp follow each other around their lake like a dog following the scent of another on terra firma.

In terms of carp warning each other of danger, I maintain that they watch each other as they feed, and if one exhibits signs of distress, then this will upset other fish nearby.

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