It's a long way from the dull hums of the amorous midshipman fish to the strains of a Puccini aria -- or, alas, even to the simplest Celine Dion melody. But the neural circuitry that led to the human love song -- not to mention birdsongs, frog thrums and mating calls of all manner of vertebrates -- was likely laid down hundreds of millions of years ago with the hums and grunts of the homely piscine.

By mapping the developing brain cells in newly hatched midshipman fish larvae and comparing them to other species, Andrew H. Bass, Cornell professor of neurobiology and behavior, with colleagues Edwin Gilland of Howard University and Robert Baker of New York University, found that the neural network behind sound production in vertebrates can be traced back through evolutionary time to an era long before the first animals ventured onto dry land.

Bass spoke to the media at a press conference, July 17. The research is published in the July 18 issue of the journal Science.

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