Brain supporting bigger electrical ‘vocabulary’ may have helped fuel creature’s diversification
Better brains make one fish, two fish, into lots and lots of fish.
After upgrading their ability to communicate using electrical signals, a group of African fish exploded into dozens of species. This may be the first study to show a link between central brain evolution and increasing species diversity, researchers report in the April 29 Science.
“The brain structure triggered an explosion of signals and an explosion of species as a result,” says Carl Hopkins, who studies neurobiology and animal behavior at Cornell University and was not involved in the new study.
Among mormyrid fish, conversation is literally buzzing. Using specialized electricity-emitting organs in their tails, these African natives string together short shocks into a primitive analog to Morse code, says study coauthor Bruce Carlson, a neuroecologist at Washington University in St. Louis. Mormyrids can’t discuss philosophy, but they can employ this rat-a-tat to send