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
July 17, 2008
View a video interview with biologist Andrew Bass of Cornell University and a guided tour of fish communicating.
Talking fish are no strangers to Americans. From the comedic portrayal of "Mr. Limpet" by Don Knotts, to the children's Disney favorite, "Nemo," fish can talk, laugh and tell jokes--at least on television and the silver screen. But can real fish verbally communicate? Researchers say, "Yes," in a paper published in the July 18 issue of the journal Science. Further, the findings put human speech--and social communications of all vertebrates--in evolutionary context.
By mapping the developing brain cells in newly hatched midshipman fish larvae and comparing them to those of other species, Andrew Bass and his colleagues, Edwin Gilland of Howard University and Robert Baker of New York University, found that the neural network behind sound production in vertebrates can be traced back through evolutionary time to an era long before the first animals ventured onto dry land. The neural circuitry that enables human beings to verbally communicate--not to mention birds to sing, and frogs to "ribbit"--was likely laid down hundreds of millions of years ago with the hums and grunts of fish.
According to Bass, the research also provides a framework for neuroscientists and evolutionary biologists studying social behavior in a variety of species, and, "sends a message to scientists and non-scientists about the importance of this group of animals to understanding behavior; to understanding the nervous system; and to understanding just how important social communication is--among them, as it is among ourselves."
Lisa-Joy Zgorski, NSF (703) 292-8311 firstname.lastname@example.org
Blaine Friedlander, Cornell University 607-254-8093 email@example.com
Andrew Bass, Cornell University firstname.lastname@example.org
Cornell University's press release announce research: http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July08/bass.fish.html
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2012, its budget was $7.0 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 50,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 11,500 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $593 million in professional and service contracts yearly.
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