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Fish Calls

August 11, 2008

Fish may hold the key to the evolution of speech.


The aquatic evolution of speech….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Sound Fx: Midshipman fish call
Recognize that sound? If you don’t, don’t worry. Most people aren’t familiar with the territorial call of the male midshipman fish, or any other species of fish for that matter. But behavioral neuroscientist Andrew Bass of Cornell University says that over half of all fish species communicate through sound. Working at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, he and his colleagues identified the area of the fish brain responsible for producing sounds.

ANDREW BASS (Cornell University):
And what we then found is that that collection of neurons is in a similar position as it is in other vertebrates.

That means fish could hold the key to the evolutionary origins of vocal communication in all vertebrates, including us. So next time you’re at the beach, listen carefully, you might just hear your ancestors calling. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.