Shop Windows to the Universe

Earth Science Rocks! Select one of our four cool NESTA t-shirts from our online store, and express your love of Earth and space science!
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

Sorry, Charlie, You and Nemo Aren't the Only Fish That Talk
News story originally written on July 17, 2008

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."

Text above is courtesy of the National Science Foundation

Last modified August 8, 2008 by Lisa Gardiner.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

Our online store includes books on science education, classroom activities in The Earth Scientist, mineral and fossil specimens, and educational games!

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Triggers of Volcanic Eruptions in Oregon's Mount Hood Investigated

A new study has found that a mixing of two different types of magma is the key to the historic eruptions of Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, and that eruptions often happen in a relatively short...more

Oldest Earth Mantle Reservoir Discovered

Researchers have found a primitive Earth mantle reservoir on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic. Geologist Matthew Jackson and his colleagues from a multi-institution collaboration report the finding--the...more

Its Not Your Fault A Typical Fault, Geologically Speaking, That Is

Some geologic faults that appear strong and stable, slip and slide like weak faults. Now an international team of researchers has laboratory evidence showing why some faults that 'should not' slip are...more

Extended Period of Lower Solar Activity Linked to Changes in Sun's Conveyor Belt

A new analysis of the unusually long solar cycle that ended in 2008 suggests that one reason for the long cycle could be a stretching of the sun's conveyor belt, a current of plasma that circulates between...more

Growth Spurt in Tree Rings Prompts Questions About Climate Change

Anyone who has ever cut down a tree is familiar with the rings radiating out from the center of a tree trunk marking the tree's age. Careful study of tree rings can offer much more: a rich record of history...more

Did Life First Develop in a Mica Sandwich at the Bottom of a Primordial Sea?

Earth's first life form may have developed between the layers of a chunk of mica sitting like a multilayered sandwich in primordial waters, according to a new hypothesis. The mica hypothesis, which was...more

Acid Rain Has Disproportionate Impact on Near-Shore Ocean Waters

The release of sulfur and nitrogen into the atmosphere by power plants and agricultural activities--commonly referred to as acid rain--plays a minor role in making the ocean more acidic on a global scale,...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF