More than 50 species of animals turned out to be “talking”. Among them are turtles, ancient fish and caecilians

(ORDO NEWS) — The list of animals capable of making sounds to communicate with each other has been replenished with fifty positions. Moreover, their ability to “talk” came from a single ancestor who lived more than 407 million years ago.

An international team of biologists has discovered the ability to communicate with sounds in 53 species of animals that were previously thought to be dumb.

These are fifty species of turtles, one species of worm (a legless amphibian that looks like a large worm), a tuatara (a beak-headed lizard from New Zealand) and a lungfish.

It turned out that the acoustic apparatus of all these animals, including lungfish, descended from a single ancestor who lived 407 million years ago.

The study was inspired by the curiosity of the Swiss evolutionary biologist Gabriel Jorgevich-Cohen. During a business trip to Brazil, he studied turtles living in the Amazonian jungle.

One day, a scientist came up with the idea to “eavesdrop” on them in their natural habitat with the help of microphones.

But at that moment he did not have such an opportunity, because the work had a different purpose, besides, these turtles were considered completely dumb.

Upon returning home, Jorgevich-Cohen conducted an amateur experiment with his pet turtles of several species, including one he had had since childhood.

The biologist made several lengthy recordings and found that “silent” turtles make sounds. He shared his observations with colleagues from the University of Zurich, after which the scientists decided to work together to conduct a study.

With the help of microphones and their underwater modifications (hydrophones), biologists have established that 50 species of turtles, as well as caecilians, tuatara , and lungfish from time to time emit clicks, a distant likeness of chirping, and simple tonal noises.

All these sounds, as a rule, are not very loud and are rarely heard – only a few times a day.

Swiss scientists recruited colleagues from Brazil and the United States to determine where these 53 animal species got the ability to emit acoustic signals.

Now the opinion dominates in science that the mechanisms of sound communication in different types of vertebrates evolved independently, since their hearing aids and vocal tracts are arranged differently and have different characteristics.

There is also an alternative hypothesis, which says that sound communication in animals has a common and ancient evolutionary origin.

It repels from the same structure of the auditory epithelium and the brain systems that control vocal behavior.

The selected 53 species were convenient for testing both versions due to the presence of lungfish, a very ancient animal that diverged from the common evolutionary branch of tetrapod vertebrates at least 400 million years ago.

More than 50 species of animals turned out to be talking Among them are turtles ancient fish and caecilians 2
An illustration of the common origin of the apparatus of sound communication in turtles, tuatara and caecilians

Biologists have collected data on the evolution of more than 1,800 species of animals (including the original 53 species) and conducted their phylogenetic analysis – it allows you to determine when and in which species certain traits appeared and how they were transmitted during evolution.

The result was somewhat unexpected: turtles, worms, tuatara and lungfish received the ability to make sounds from one common ancestor who lived at least 407 million years ago.

This may be an argument in favor of an alternative hypothesis for the origin of sound communication in animals.

However, it is not yet clear whether all these acoustic signals of turtles and reptiles really play a communication role.

Usually, scientists assume that animals make sounds to convey important information to each other or to coordinate behavior in a group.

The authors of the study paid special attention to this and determined that many of the sounds made are accompanied by an explicit context, such as a change in behavior.

Thus, most likely it is the acoustic communication of animals among themselves, and not just random sounds.

But for complete certainty, further research will be required, which looks quite difficult, given the “shyness” and “taciturnity” of some animal species.


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