Researchers are giving the phrase “primeval grunt” new meaning. In the process, they say, they’re showing that the roots of vocalization – from frog croaks and bird chirps to presidential campaign speeches – may date back hundreds of millions of years to early fish.
The research team from Cornell University, Howard University, and New York University used fluorescent dyes to track the development of neural networks in the budding brains of larval midshipmen fish. The male fish generate a hum, using their swim bladders, to attract mates. The team found that the neural circuits related to vocalization in the fish had distinct similarities to those found in a range of other creatures – including primates. The intricacy of those circuits varied widely, but the basic elements were, in evo-speak, “conserved” among them all.
The results appear in the current issue of the journal Science.
For columnist Robert C. Cowen's take on this news, check out: Fish hum, grunt, and growl to get their message across