Monday, September 24, 2007

What's the difference between bat echolocation and human speech?

The title of this post sounds like the setup to an extremely sophisticated joke, right? Sorry to disappoint. But really, though, echolocation and human speech have something in common: they are both controlled by FOXP2, the so-called "language gene." There's a fascinating post on Babel's Dawn today, discussing recent discoveries about FOXP2.

As it turns out, besides bats, humans have one of the most developed FOXP2 genes among mammals. No other primates compare. This enables us to produce and understand minute differences in sound, like the difference between sing and zing, which is not only a minute difference, but it's said and over with in a matter of milliseconds.

Bats still apparently have better sensorimotor coordination than we do, but our abilities are nothing to scoff at.