Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Fish and the evolution of speech
Recent research has shown that sound arose quite early in the evolution of vertebrates. dating back about 400,000,000 years. It first arose in fish, and many fish today use vocalization as part of the process of social communication.
A team of researchers at Cornell, lead by Dr. Andrew Bass ( talk about a fitting name) focused their research on midshipman fish, which are found in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of the U.S. and Canada. Males hum to lure females and grunt and growl to scare away other males from their nest. Female midshipmen fish growl to claim and protect territory, but don't make the other sounds males do.
The most interesting part of the teams research showed that the neural networks responsible for vocalization in fish and had the same location as that in other vertebrates, indicating that not only was vocalization something very ancient, but that its form, structure, and function have been highly conserved throughout time.
This research could be useful in helping to develop treatments for those who have had damage to the neural network that controls speech.
This is an interesting article on this research.
Another good article, which includes the picture at the beginning of the post:
The abstract for the original research article:
Here is a video of humming and grunting midshipman fish:
Here is a link to a speech by Dr. Bass about his research: