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."
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes fun classroom activities
for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!
You might also be interested in:
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. "The data will help give us a better road map to what a future...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core, and makes up about 84 percent of the Earth's volume. The mantle is made up of many distinct portions or...more
Some geologic faults that appear strong and stable, slip and slide like weak faults, causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults in a new way to figure out why. In theory,...more
The sun goes through cycles that last approximately 11 years. These solar cycle include phases with more magnetic activity, sunspots, and solar flares. They also include phases with less activity. The...more
Studying tree rings doesn't only tell us the age of that tree. Tree rings also show what climate was like for each year of a tree's life, which means they can tell us about climates of the past and about...more
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 plays a small role in making the world's oceans more acidic. But new research has found that acid rain has a much bigger impact on the coastal sections of the ocean. Acid rain is caused by pollution...more