Sexually dimorphic swim bladder extensions enhance the auditory sensitivity of female plainfin midshipman fish, Porichthys notatus [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Orphal Colleye, Brooke J. Vetter, Robert A. Mohr, Lane H. Seeley, and Joseph A. Sisneros

The plainfin midshipman fish, Porichthys notatus, is a seasonally breeding, nocturnal marine teleost fish that produces acoustic signals for intraspecific social communication. Females rely on audition to detect and locate “singing” males that produce multiharmonic advertisement calls in the shallow-water, intertidal breeding environments. Previous work showed that females possess sexually-dimorphic, horn-like rostral swim bladder extensions that extend toward the primary auditory end organs, the saccule and lagena. Here, we test the hypothesis that the rostral swim bladder extensions in females increase auditory sensitivity to sound pressure and higher frequencies, which potentially could enhance mate detection and localization in shallow water habitats. We recorded the auditory evoked potentials that originated from hair cell receptors in the saccule of control females with intact swim bladders and compared them with that from treated females (swim bladders removed) and type I males (intact swim bladders lacking rostral extensions). Saccular potentials were recorded from hair cell populations in vivo while behaviorally relevant pure tone stimuli (75-1005 Hz) were presented by an underwater speaker. Results indicate that control females were approximately 5-11 dB (re: 1 µPa) more sensitive to sound pressure than treated females and type I males at the frequencies tested. A higher percentage of the evoked saccular potentials were recorded from control females at frequencies >305 Hz than from treated females and type I males. This enhanced sensitivity in females to sound pressure and higher frequencies may facilitate the acquisition of auditory information needed for conspecific localization and mate choice decisions during the breeding season.

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