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Hand gestures linked to fish brains

An unexpected link has been found between hand-waving Italians and fish.

Gesticulating during speech can be traced to an ancient part of the fish brain, say scientists.

Control of speech and hand movements are closely linked in the brain and can be tracked through mammals and birds all the way back to fishes.

Their ancestral roots lie in a single region of the fish hindbrain, a study has shown.

"We have traced the evolutionary origins of the behavioural coupling between speech and hand movement back to a developmental compartment in the brain of fishes," said lead scientist Professor Andrew Bass, from Cornell University in New York.

Both fins and forelimbs are mainly used for locomotion. But they also functioned in social communication to make "non-vocal sonic signals" and relay information by gesturing, said Prof Bass, who presented his findings at the Society for Experimental Biology's annual meeting in Valencia, Spain.

He added: "Coupling of vocal and pectoral-gestural circuitry starts to get at the evolutionary origins of the coupling between vocalisation (speech) and gestural signalling (hand movements). This is all part of the perhaps even larger story of language evolution."

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