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An artist's representation shows the midshipman fish singing to attract a mate.
Click on image for full size
Original Illustration by Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

Scientists Discover Fish that Talk
News story originally written on July 17, 2008

We used to think that only cartoon animated fish could talk. But now scientists have found that fish really do talk. It may not be the same sort of language that people use, but fish are able to hum and grunt in order to communicate with other fish.

Scientists studied the brain cells of newly hatched fish larvae. In the fish brains, they found the same sort of brain cells that enable humans to talk. These are also the same type of brain cells that allow birds to sing and frogs to “ribbit”.

They found that the brain cells responsible for sound production in vertebrates can be traced back through evolutionary time to an era long before animals lived on dry land. The neural circuitry was likely laid down hundreds of millions of years ago with the hums and grunts of fish.

According to scientist Andrew Bass, this research "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."

Last modified August 8, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.

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