Catania lowered a hydrophone into the aquarium because fish ears sense which way the predator's sound waves are coming from, thus allowing the fish to prepare for a speedy departure in the opposite direction.
But the snake, in this case, produces sound waves from its body, not its head, and the waves come from the opposite side of the fish, thus confusing the fish about which way to depart. It's a nasty trick, but it's useful for the snake.
It may all sound like a lot of fun, but that, too, is right down Catania's alley. He may be as well known on the Vanderbilt campus for his sense of humor as he is for his research. He keeps a skull with a spear through it handy, no doubt to remind students to pay attention.
Back in his undergrad days at the University of Maryland, Catania and a carload of fellow students were pulled over by what was later described as a "surly" Maryland trooper.
The cop started asking questions about their field of neuroscience, provoking a fierce disagreement among the students over some issue that could only be meaningful to eggheads.
It turned out that the encounter was a hoax. Catania had talked a college chum into posing as the trooper in a practical joke that reportedly took a year to plan.