DOI: 10.1002/cne.25601 ISSN: 0021-9967

Evolution of air‐borne vocalization: Insights from neural studies in the archeobatrachian species Bombina orientalis

Stefan Huggenberger, Wolfgang Walkowiak
  • General Neuroscience


Vocalization of tetrapods evolved as an air‐driven mechanism. Thus, it is conceivable that the underlaying neural network might have evolved from more ancient respiratory circuits and be made up of homologous components that generate breathing rhythms across vertebrates. In this context, the extant species of stem anurans provide an opportunity to analyze the connection of the neural circuits of lung ventilation and vocalization. Here, we analyzed the fictive lung ventilation and vocalization behavior of isolated brains of the Chinese fire‐bellied toad Bombina orientalis during their mating season by nerve root recordings. We discovered significant differences in durations of activation of male brains after stimulation of the statoacoustic nerve or vocalization‐relevant forebrain structures in comparison to female brains. The increased durations of motor nerve activities in male brains can be interpreted as fictive calling, as male's advertisement calls in vivo had the same general pattern compared to lung ventilation, but longer duration periods. Female brains react to the corresponding stimulations with the same shorter activity pattern that occurred spontaneously in both female and male brains and thus can be interpreted as fictive lung ventilations. These results support the hypothesis that vocal circuits evolved from ancient respiration networks in the anuran caudal hindbrain. Moreover, we could show that the terrestrial stem archeobatrachian Bombina spec. is an appropriate model to study the function and evolution of the shared network of lung ventilation and vocal generation.

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