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Mysterious Low Rumbling Noise Heard In Florida For Years Gets NSFW Explanation

The noise these fish make is quite something.

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

Edited by Laura Simmons
Laura Simmons - Editor and Staff Writer

Laura Simmons

Editor and Staff Writer

Laura is an editor and staff writer at IFLScience. She obtained her Master's in Experimental Neuroscience from Imperial College London.

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A black drum fish underwater.

The black drum fish (pogonias cromis).

Image credit: Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock.com

A mysterious low noise regularly heard by residents in South Tampa, Florida, over the last three years may have an explanation.

In 2021, residents from Port Tampa to Davis Islands heard what has been described as a "mysterious deep bass sound".

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"Everyone seems to have their favorite theory," resident Sara Healy explained in a crowdfunder to investigate the noise, "whether it’s a party boat, a club, a rager on Beer Can Island, a top secret project on MacDill Air Force Base, or even aliens."

None of those are correct, according to Dr James Locascio, Program Manager Fisheries Habitat Ecology and Acoustics at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. Locascio provided a possible explanation back in 2022, which residents are raising money to confirm with underwater microphones. The expert in underwater sound and fish spawning believes that the noise could be caused by the sounds of mating black drum fish.

“This is a pretty uncommon phenomenon,” Locascio told the Washington Post. “All these people are surprised by it because it’s not well known.”

Drum fish are appropriately named, given the noise they produce

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"A defining characteristic of the drum family is the ability to create throbbing or croaking sounds by using special muscles to vibrate against the swim bladder," North Carolina Coastwatch explains. "Each species makes a slightly different sound."

A recording of a banded drum fish from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Macaulay Library.

Locascio is now planning to place microphones underwater to find where the noise is coming from, with local residents covering the cost of the equipment. Amazingly, this isn't the first time Locascio has solved the same fish sex-based mystery. In 2005, similar noises were heard off the Gulf Coast in Florida, and the city was ready to spend $47,000 fixing the problem, which they believed was due to the municipal utility system. In stepped Locascio to explain they were listening to fish sex.

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“Black drum have taken a liking to the canal system in Cape Coral,” Locascio told the New York Times. “Their nightly booming is like a water drip torture that lasts for months.”

Locascio explained that the noises produced by the drum fish are low enough in frequency and long enough in wavelength to go through sea walls and into the ground, then into seafront homes, much like the rumble of passing vehicles. He suspects that the noise is carried in the same way this time, explaining why residents can hear it from kilometers away.


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  • tag
  • fish,

  • sex,

  • mysteries,

  • noises

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