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  • Exposure to continuous moderate noise levels is known to impair the auditory system leading to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) in animals including humans. The mechanism underlying noise-dependent auditory Temporary Threshold Shifts (TTS) is not fully understood. In fact, only limited information is available on vertebrates such as fishes, which share homologous inner ear structures to mammals and have the ability to regenerate hair cells. The zebrafish Danio rerio is a well-established model in hearing research providing an unmatched opportunity to investigate the molecular and physiological mechanisms of NIHL at the sensory receptor level. Here we investigated for the first time the effects of noise exposure on TTS and functional recovery in zebrafish, as well as the associated morphological damage and regeneration of the inner ear saccular hair cells. Adult specimens were exposed for 24h to white noise at various amplitudes (130, 140 and 150 dB re. 1 μPa) and their auditory sensitivity was subsequently measured with the Auditory Evoked Potential (AEP) recording technique. Sensory recovery was tested at different times post-treatment (after 3, 7 and 14 days) and compared to individuals kept under quiet lab conditions. Results revealed noise level-dependent TTS up to 33 dB and increase in response latency. Recovery of hearing function occurred within 7 days for fish exposed to 130 and 140 dB noise levels, while fish subject to 150 dB only returned to baseline thresholds after 14 days. Hearing impairment was accompanied by significant loss of hair cells only at the highest noise treatment. Full regeneration of the sensory tissue (number of hair cell receptors) occurred within 7 days, which was prior to functional recovery. We provide first baseline data of NIHL in zebrafish and validate this species as an effective vertebrate model to investigate the impact of noise exposure on the structure and function of the adult inner ear and its recovery process.

  • Fish acoustic signals associated with mating behaviour are typically low-frequency sounds produced by males when in close proximity to females. However, some species make sounds that serve the function and follow the design of advertisement calls, well known in insects, anurans, and birds. Close-range courtship acoustic signals may be used by females in mate assessment as they contain information of male quality such as size and condition. For example, sound-dominant frequency, amplitude, and fatigue resistance may signal body size whereas pulse period (i.e. muscle contraction rate) and calling activity are related with body condition in some species. Some signal features, such as sound pulse number, may carry multiple messages including size and condition. Playback experiments on mate choice of a restricted number of species suggest that females prefer vocal to silent males and may use sound frequency, amplitude, and mainly calling rateCalling ratewhen assessing males. The assessment of males by females becomes more challenging when males engage in choruses or when sounds are otherwise masked by anthropogenic noise but almost nothing is known about how these aspects affect mating decisions and fish reproductive success.

  • 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.

  • Vocal differentiation is widely documented in birds and mammals but has been poorly investigated in other vertebrates, including fish, which represent the oldest extant vertebrate group. Neural circuitry controlling vocal behaviour is thought to have evolved from conserved brain areas that originated in fish, making this taxon key to understanding the evolution and development of the vertebrate vocal-auditory systems. This study examines ontogenetic changes in the vocal repertoire and whether vocal differentiation parallels auditory development in the Lusitanian toadfish Halobatrachus didactylus (Batrachoididae). This species exhibits a complex acoustic repertoire and is vocally active during early development. Vocalisations were recorded during social interactions for four size groups (fry: <2 cm; small juveniles: 2–4 cm; large juveniles: 5–7 cm; adults >25 cm, standard length). Auditory sensitivity of juveniles and adults was determined based on evoked potentials recorded from the inner ear saccule in response to pure tones of 75–945 Hz. We show an ontogenetic increment in the vocal repertoire from simple broadband-pulsed ‘grunts’ that later differentiate into four distinct vocalisations, including low-frequency amplitude-modulated ‘boatwhistles’. Whereas fry emitted mostly single grunts, large juveniles exhibited vocalisations similar to the adult vocal repertoire. Saccular sensitivity revealed a three-fold enhancement at most frequencies tested from small to large juveniles; however, large juveniles were similar in sensitivity to adults. We provide the first clear evidence of ontogenetic vocal differentiation in fish, as previously described for higher vertebrates. Our results suggest a parallel development between the vocal motor pathway and the peripheral auditory system for acoustic social communication in fish.

  • Anthropogenic noise can be hazardous for the auditory system and wellbeing of animals, including humans. However, very limited information is known on how this global environmental pollutant affects auditory function and inner ear sensory receptors in early ontogeny. The zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a valuable model in hearing research, including investigations of developmental processes of the vertebrate inner ear. We tested the effects of chronic exposure to white noise in larval zebrafish on inner ear saccular sensitivity and morphology at 3 and 5 days post-fertilization (dpf), as well as on auditory-evoked swimming responses using the prepulse inhibition (PPI) paradigm at 5 dpf. Noise-exposed larvae showed a significant increase in microphonic potential thresholds at low frequencies, 100 and 200 Hz, while the PPI revealed a hypersensitization effect and a similar threshold shift at 200 Hz. Auditory sensitivity changes were accompanied by a decrease in saccular hair cell number and epithelium area. In aggregate, the results reveal noise-induced effects on inner ear structure–function in a larval fish paralleled by a decrease in auditory-evoked sensorimotor responses. More broadly, this study highlights the importance of investigating the impact of environmental noise on early development of sensory and behavioural responsiveness to acoustic stimuli.

Last update from database: 4/14/24, 1:30 PM (UTC)


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