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Vocal communication in vertebrate animals is much more common than we thought, and many vertebrates that we thought were non-vocal are communicating, according to a new study.

Source: Stanford Graduate School of Business/YouTube

Vocal communication was recorded in 53 animals that we thought were silent, a new study found. The recordings of communication in reptiles, amphibians, and fish make scientists believe that vocal communication may have a common evolutionary origin in vertebrates.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that many vertebrates, including the tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus), the Cayenne caecilian (Typhlonectes compressicauda), the South American lungfish (Lepidosiren paradox), and 50 species of turtles, are vocal when we previously thought they were non-vocal.

Gabriel Jorgewich-Cohen at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and his colleagues suggest that vocal communication arose through a common ancestor over 400 million years ago.

Many vertebrates that have lungs, known as choanate vertebrates, create sound through structures in their throats when they push air up through their lungs. However, researchers now realized that they had overlooked at least 100 choanates in vocal communication studies. Although this group has been seen and heard making sounds it was assumed they were either created by accident or were being used to defend themselves. These things mean that it would not be considered true vocal communication.

One of the biggest misconceptions was that turtles are non-vocal, which Jorgewich-Cohen says everyone was wrong in assuming. Out of the 53 species that the team studied, they found a wide range of acoustic capabilities, from simple chirps and clicks to even more complex tones.

This is an amazing discovery and it will help us learn so much more about the animal kingdom and how these incredible species live their lives.

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