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Press Release 08-121

Sorry, Charlie, You and Nemo Aren't the Only Fish That Talk

New research shows that vocal communication evolved from ancient fish species

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An artist's representation of the midshipman fish singing to attract a mate.

An artist's representation shows the midshipman fish singing to attract a mate.

Credit: Original Illustration by Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation


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Dr. Andrew Bass, professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University, speaks with Lisa-Joy Zgorski of the National Science Foundation about new research on fish vocalization detailed in a piece in Science, authored by Bass and his colleagues Edwin H. Gilland of Howard University and Robert Baker of New York University.

Credit: Video Credit: Video by Cornell University and National Science Foundation
Illustration and background studio image by: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation
Aural fish recordings by: Margaret Marchaterre from the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell university

 

Dr. Andrew Bass of Cornell University narrates a guided tour of fish communicating in their habitat.

Credit: Dr. Andrew Bass/Margaret A. Marchaterre/Science

 

Cover of the July 18 issue of Science magazine.

The researchers' findings are published in the July 18 issue of Science magazine.

Credit: Copyright 2008 AAAS


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The long duration "hum" advertisement call of a male midshipman fish (a specific group of fish that are more generally referred to as toadfishes), broadcast to attract females to their nest. Females do not make this call.

Credit: Margaret A. Marchaterre/Science

 

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The brief "grunt" calls of a male midshipman fish, associated with defense of the nest against intruders. Females also make grunts in aggressive contexts.

Credit: Margaret A. Marchaterre/Science

 

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The "growl" calls of a male midshipman fish, also associated with nest defense, but mainly early in the breeding season when fish are first establishing their nest sites. Females are not known to make this call.

Credit: Margaret A. Marchaterre/Science