Researchers closer to understanding the evolution of sound production in fish

December 15, 2011

An international team of researchers studying sound production in perch-like fishes has discovered a link between two unrelated lineages of fishes, taking researchers a step closer to understanding the evolution of one of the fastest muscles in vertebrates.

Understanding the evolution of such fast muscles has been difficult for researchers because slow movement of a swimbladder does not generate sound.

In a study published online Nov. 29 in the journal Frontiers in , Virginia Commonwealth University , together with researchers Hin-Kiu Mok, Ph.D., at the National Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan, and Eric Parmentier, Ph.D., at the Université de Liège in Belgium, have found that the pearl-perch belonging to the fish order Perciformes utilizes a hybrid system with characteristics of slow and fast systems. The findings suggest an intermediate condition in the evolution of superfast sonic muscles that drive swimbladder vibration directly. Perciforms are one of the largest orders of .

"This work for the first time demonstrates an intermediate condition in the potential evolution of these superfast muscles," said investigator Michael Fine, Ph.D., professor of biology at VCU, who served as corresponding author for the study.

"It's sort of like finding a fossil whale with leg bones indicating affinity to a terrestrial vertebrate, or a dinosaur with feathers indicating potential steps in the of reptiles into birds," he said.

According to Fine, a number of fish produce sounds by contracting superfast muscles that vibrate the swimbladder to produce aggressive and courtship calls. For example, in the oyster toadfish found on the east coast of the United States, swimbladder muscles routinely contract more than 200 times a second when a male is calling for a mate. Fine and his colleagues recently found a group of fishes that produce sound by using slow muscles to pull the swimbladder, which then snaps back - like a rubber band - to produce sound. In this case the pearl perch has a hybrid system that uses a slow system but actually pulls the swimbladder forward with a fast . The has a tendon that gets stretched and causes the bladder to snap back, producing the loud part of the sound.

"What is special about this perciform is that its sound producing system appears to have intermediate characteristics between slow systems which are only known in ophidiiform fishes, and fast muscles present in different groups of fishes," he said.

Explore further: Scientists Discover How Fish Evolved To Float At Different Sea Depths

Related Stories

Superfast muscles in songbirds

July 9, 2008

Certain songbirds can contract their vocal muscles 100 times faster than humans can blink an eye – placing the birds with a handful of animals that have evolved superfast muscles, University of Utah researchers found.

How the bat got its buzz: Superfast muscles in mammals

September 29, 2011

As nocturnal animals, bats rely echolocation to navigate and hunt prey. By bouncing sound waves off objects, including the bugs that are their main diet, bats can produce an accurate representation of their environment in ...

Aggressive piranhas bark to say buzz off

October 13, 2011

Thanks to Hollywood, piranhas have a bad reputation and it would be a brave scientist that chose to plunge their hand into a tank of them. But that didn't deter Sandie Millot, Pierre Vandewalle and Eric Parmentier from the ...

Recommended for you

Scientists overcome key CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing hurdle

December 1, 2015

Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have engineered changes to the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system that significantly cut down on "off-target" ...

Study finds 'rudimentary' empathy in macaques

December 1, 2015

(—A pair of researchers with Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Université Lyon, in France has conducted a study that has shown that macaques have at least some degree of empathy towards their fellow ...

Which came first—the sponge or the comb jelly?

December 1, 2015

Bristol study reaffirms classical view of early animal evolution. Whether sponges or comb jellies (also known as sea gooseberries) represent the oldest extant animal phylum is of crucial importance to our understanding of ...

Trap-jaw ants exhibit previously unseen jumping behavior

December 1, 2015

A species of trap-jaw ant has been found to exhibit a previously unseen jumping behavior, using its legs rather than its powerful jaws. The discovery makes this species, Odontomachus rixosus, the only species of ant that ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.