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  • Zebrafish is a well-established model organism in hearing research. Although the acoustic environment is known to shape the structure and sensitivity of auditory systems, there is no information on the natural soundscape of this species. Moreover, zebrafish are typically reared in large-scale housing systems (HS), although their acoustic properties and potential effects on hearing remain unknown. We characterized the soundscape of both zebrafish natural habitats and laboratory captive conditions, and discussed possible impact on auditory sensitivity. Sound recordings were conducted in five distinct zebrafish habitats (Southwest India), from quieter stagnant environments with diverse biological/abiotic sounds to louder watercourses characterized by current and moving substrate sounds. Sound pressure level (SPL) varied between 98 and 126 dB re 1 μPa. Sound spectra presented most energy below 3000 Hz and quieter noise windows were found in the noisiest habitats matching the species best hearing range. Contrastingly, recordings from three zebrafish HS revealed higher SPL (122-143 dB) and most energy below 1000 Hz with more spectral peaks, which might cause significant auditory masking. This study establishes an important ground for future research on the adaptation of zebrafish auditory system to the natural soundscapes, and highlights the importance of controlling noise conditions in captivity.

  • Skip to Next Section Acoustic communication is an important part of social behaviour of fish species that live or breed in shallow noisy waters. Previous studies have shown that some fish species exploit a quiet window in the background noise for communication. However, it remains to be examined whether hearing abilities and sound production of fish are adapted to marine habitats presenting high hydrodynamism. Here, we investigated whether the communication system of the painted (Pomatoschistus pictus) and the marbled (Pomatoschistus marmoratus) gobies is adapted to enhance sound transmission and reception in Atlantic shallow water environments. We recorded and measured the sound pressure levels of social vocalisations of both species, as well as snapshots of ambient noise of habitats characterised by different hydrodynamics. Hearing thresholds (in terms of both sound pressure and particle acceleration) and responses to conspecific signals were determined using the auditory evoked potential recording technique. We found that the peak frequency range (100–300 Hz) of acoustic signals matched the best hearing sensitivity in both species and appeared well adapted for short-range communication in Atlantic habitats. Sandy/rocky exposed beaches presented a quiet window, observable even during the breaking of moderate waves, coincident with the main sound frequencies and best hearing sensitivities of both species. Our data demonstrate that the hearing abilities of these gobies are well suited to detect conspecific sounds within typical interacting distances (a few body lengths) in Atlantic shallow waters. These findings lend support to the acoustic adaptive hypothesis, under the sensory drive framework, proposing that signals and perception systems coevolve to be effective within local environment constraints.

  • Studies addressing structure-function relationships of the fish auditory system during development are sparse compared to other taxa. The Batrachoididae has become an important group to investigate mechanisms of auditory plasticity and evolution of auditory-vocal systems. A recent study reported ontogenetic improvements in the inner ear saccule sensitivity of the Lusitanian toadfish, Halobatrachus didactylus, but whether this results from changes in the sensory morphology remains unknown. We investigated how the macula and organization of auditory receptors in the saccule and utricle change during growth in this species. Inner ear sensory epithelia were removed from the end organs of previously PFA-fixed specimens, from non-vocal posthatch fry (<1.4 cm, standard length) to adults (>23 cm). Epithelia were phalloidin-stained and analysed for area, shape, number and orientation patterns of hair cells (HC), and number and size of saccular supporting cells (SC). Saccular macula area expanded 41x in total, and significantly more (relative to body length) among vocal juveniles (2.3–2.9 cm). Saccular HC number increased 25x but HC density decreased, suggesting that HC addition is slower relative to epithelial growth. While SC density decreased, SC apical area increased, contributing to the epithelial expansion. The utricule revealed increased HC density (striolar region) and less epithelial expansion (5x) with growth, contrasting with the saccule that may have a different developmental pattern due to its larger size and main auditory functions. Both macula shape and HC orientation patterns were already established in the posthatch fry and retained throughout growth in both end organs. We suggest that previously reported ontogenetic improvements in saccular sensitivity might be associated with changes in HC number (not density), size and/or molecular mechanisms controlling HC sensitivity. This is one of the first studies investigating the ontogenetic development of the saccule and utricle in a vocal fish and how it potentially relates to auditory enhancement for acoustic communication.

  • Fish represent the largest group of vertebrates and display the greatest diversity of auditory structures. However, studies addressing how the form and function of the auditory system change during development to enhance perception of the acoustic environment are rather sparse in this taxon compared to other vertebrate groups. An ontogenetic perspective of the auditory system in fishes provides a readily testable framework for understanding structure–function relationships. Additionally, studying ancestral models such as fish can convey valuable comparable information across vertebrates, as early developmental events are often evolutionary conserved. This chapter reviews the literature on the morphological development of the fish auditory system, with particular focus on the inner ear structures that evolve from an otic placode during early embryonic development and then continue to undergo differentiation and maturation in the postembryonic phase. Moreover, the chapter provides a systematic overview of how auditory sensitivity develops during ontogeny. Although most studies indicate a developmental improvement in auditory sensitivity, there is considerably species-specific variation. Lastly, the paucity of information and literature concerning the development of auditory capabilities for social communication in fishes is also discussed. Further investigation on the development of structure and function of the fish auditory system is recommended in order to obtain a deeper understanding of how ontogenetic morphological changes in the auditory pathway relate to modifications in acoustic reception, auditory processing, and the capacity to communicate acoustically.

Last update from database: 11/16/21, 4:17 AM (UTC)