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Zap! More fish

Brain supporting bigger electrical ‘vocabulary’ may have helped fuel creature’s diversification

4:11pm, April 28, 2011

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

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