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Auditory saccular sensitivity of the vocal Lusitanian toadfish: low frequency tuning allows acoustic communication throughout the year

Vasconcelos, Raquel O., Sisneros, Joseph A., Amorim, M. Clara P., Fonseca, Paulo J.
Journal of comparative physiology 2011 v.197 no.9 pp. 903-913
Batrachoididae, acoustics, breeding, ears, estuaries, evoked potentials, females, fish, hearing, males, plastics
A novel form of auditory plasticity for enhanced detection of social signals was described in a teleost fish, Porichthys notatus (Batrachoididae, Porichthyinae). The seasonal onset of male calling coincides with inshore migration from deep waters by both sexes and increased female sensitivity to dominant frequencies of male calls. The closely related Lusitanian toadfish, Halobatrachus didactylus, (Batrachoididae, Halophryninae) also breeds seasonally and relies on acoustic communication to find mates but, instead, both sexes stay in estuaries and show vocal activity throughout the year. We investigated whether the sensitivity of the inner ear saccule of H. didactylus is seasonally plastic and sexually dimorphic. We recorded evoked potentials from populations of saccular hair cells from non-reproductive and reproductive males and females in response to 15–945 Hz tones. Saccular hair cells were most sensitive at 15–205 Hz (thresholds between 111 and 118 dB re. 1 μPa). Both sexes showed identical hearing sensitivity and no differences were found across seasons. The saccule was well suited to detect conspecific vocalizations and low frequencies that overlapped with lateral line sensitivity. We showed that the saccule in H. didactylus has major importance in acoustic communication throughout the year and that significant sensory differences may exist between the two batrachoidid subfamilies.