Interspecific variation of warning calls in piranhas: a comparative analysis.
ABSTRACT: Fish sounds are known to be species-specific, possessing unique temporal and spectral features. We have recorded and compared sounds in eight piranha species to evaluate the potential role of acoustic communication as a driving force in clade diversification. All piranha species showed the same kind of sound-producing mechanism: sonic muscles originate on vertebrae and attach to a tendon surrounding the bladder ventrally. Contractions of the sound-producing muscles force swimbladder vibration and dictate the fundamental frequency. It results the calling features of the eight piranha species logically share many common characteristics. In all the species, the calls are harmonic sounds composed of multiple continuous cycles. However, the sounds of Serrasalmus elongatus (higher number of cycles and high fundamental frequency) and S. manueli (long cycle periods and low fundamental frequency) are clearly distinguishable from the other species. The sonic mechanism being largely conserved throughout piranha evolution, acoustic communication can hardly be considered as the main driving force in the diversification process. However, sounds of some species are clearly distinguishable despite the short space for variations supporting the need for specific communication. Behavioural studies are needed to clearly understand the eventual role of the calls during spawning events.
Project description:Elucidating the origins of complex biological structures has been one of the major challenges of evolutionary studies. Within vertebrates, the capacity to produce regular coordinated electric organ discharges (EODs) has evolved independently in different fish lineages. Intermediate stages, however, are not known. We show that, within a single catfish genus, some species are able to produce sounds, electric discharges or both signals (though not simultaneously). We highlight that both acoustic and electric communication result from actions of the same muscle. In parallel to their abilities, the studied species show different degrees of myofibril development in the sonic and electric muscle. The lowest myofibril density was observed in Synodontis nigriventris, which produced EODs but no swim bladder sounds, whereas the greatest myofibril density was observed in Synodontis grandiops, the species that produced the longest sound trains but did not emit EODs. Additionally, S. grandiops exhibited the lowest auditory thresholds. Swim bladder sounds were similar among species, while EODs were distinctive at the species level. We hypothesize that communication with conspecifics favoured the development of species-specific EOD signals and suggest an evolutionary explanation for the transition from a fast sonic muscle to electrocytes.
Project description:The underwater environment is more and more being depicted as particularly noisy, and the inventory of calling fishes is continuously increasing. However, it currently remains unknown how species share the soundscape and are able to communicate without misinterpreting the messages. Different mechanisms of interference avoidance have been documented in birds, mammals, and frogs, but little is known about interference avoidance in fishes. How fish thus partition the soundscape underwater remains unknown, as acoustic communication and its organization have never been studied at the level of fish communities. In this study, passive acoustic recordings were used to inventory sounds produced in a fish community (120 m depth) in an attempt to understand how different species partition the acoustic environment. We uncovered an important diversity of fish sounds, and 16 of the 37 different sounds recorded were sufficiently abundant to use in a quantitative analysis. We show that sonic activity allows a clear distinction between a diurnal and a nocturnal group of fishes. Moreover, frequencies of signals made during the day overlap, whereas there is a clear distinction between the different representatives of the nocturnal callers because of a lack of overlap in sound frequency. This first demonstration, to our knowledge, of interference avoidance in a fish community can be understood by the way sounds are used. In diurnal species, sounds are mostly used to support visual display, whereas nocturnal species are generally deprived of visual cues, resulting in acoustic constraints being more important.
Project description:Caterpillars have long been used as models for studying animal defence. Their impressive armour, including flamboyant warning colours, poisonous spines, irritating sprays, and mimicry of plant parts, snakes and bird droppings, has been extensively documented. But research has mainly focused on visual and chemical displays. Here we show that some caterpillars also exhibit sonic displays. During simulated attacks, 45% of 38 genera and 33% of 61 species of silk and hawkmoth caterpillars (Bombycoidea) produced sounds. Sonic caterpillars are found in many distantly-related groups of Bombycoidea, and have evolved four distinct sound types- clicks, chirps, whistles and vocalizations. We propose that different sounds convey different messages, with some designed to warn of a chemical defence and others, to startle predators. This research underscores the importance of exploring acoustic communication in juvenile insects, and provides a model system to explore how different signals have evolved to frighten, warn or even trick predators.
Project description:Insects have evolved a variety of structures and mechanisms to produce sounds, which are used for communication both within and between species. Among acoustic insects, cicada males are particularly known for their loud and diverse sounds which function importantly in communication. The main method of sound production in cicadas is the tymbal mechanism, and a relative small number of cicada species possess both tymbal and stridulatory organs. However, cicadas of the genus Karenia do not have any specialized sound-producing structures, so they are referred to as "mute". This denomination is quite misleading, as they indeed produce sounds. Here, we investigate the sound-producing mechanism and acoustic communication of the "mute" cicada, Karenia caelatata, and discover a new sound-production mechanism for cicadas: i.e., K. caelatata produces impact sounds by banging the forewing costa against the operculum. The temporal, frequency and amplitude characteristics of the impact sounds are described. Morphological studies and reflectance-based analyses reveal that the structures involved in sound production of K. caelatata (i.e., forewing, operculum, cruciform elevation, and wing-holding groove on scutellum) are all morphologically modified. Acoustic playback experiments and behavioral observations suggest that the impact sounds of K. caelatata are used in intraspecific communication and function as calling songs. The new sound-production mechanism expands our knowledge on the diversity of acoustic signaling behavior in cicadas and further underscores the need for more bioacoustic studies on cicadas which lack tymbal mechanism.
Project description:The genus Pygocentrus contains three valid piranha species (P. cariba, P. nattereri and P. piraya) that are allopatric in tropical and subtropical freshwater environments of South America. This study uses acoustic features to differentiate the three species. Sounds were recorded in P. cariba, two populations of P. nattereri (red- and yellow-bellied) and P. piraya; providing sound description for the first time in P. cariba and P. piraya. Calls of P. cariba were distinct from all the other studied populations. Red- and yellow-bellied P. nattereri calls were different from each other but yellow-bellied P. nattereri calls were similar to those of P. piraya. These observations can be explained by considering that the studied specimens of yellow-bellied P. nattereri have been wrongly identified and are actually a sub-population of P. piraya. Morphological examinations and recent fish field recordings in the Araguari River strongly support our hypothesis. This study shows for the first time that sounds can be used to discover identification errors in the teleost taxa.
Project description:Sexual reproduction in all animals depends on effective communication between signalers and receivers. Many fish species, especially the African cichlids, are well known for their bright coloration and the importance of visual signaling during courtship and mate choice, but little is known about what role acoustic communication plays during mating and how it contributes to sexual selection in this phenotypically diverse group of vertebrates. Here we examined acoustic communication during reproduction in the social cichlid fish, Astatotilapia burtoni. We characterized the sounds and associated behaviors produced by dominant males during courtship, tested for differences in hearing ability associated with female reproductive state and male social status, and then tested the hypothesis that female mate preference is influenced by male sound production. We show that dominant males produce intentional courtship sounds in close proximity to females, and that sounds are spectrally similar to their hearing abilities. Females were 2-5-fold more sensitive to low frequency sounds in the spectral range of male courtship sounds when they were sexually-receptive compared to during the mouthbrooding parental phase. Hearing thresholds were also negatively correlated with circulating sex-steroid levels in females but positively correlated in males, suggesting a potential role for steroids in reproductive-state auditory plasticity. Behavioral experiments showed that receptive females preferred to affiliate with males that were associated with playback of courtship sounds compared to noise controls, indicating that acoustic information is likely important for female mate choice. These data show for the first time in a Tanganyikan cichlid that acoustic communication is important during reproduction as part of a multimodal signaling repertoire, and that perception of auditory information changes depending on the animal's internal physiological state. Our results highlight the importance of examining non-visual sensory modalities as potential substrates for sexual selection contributing to the incredible phenotypic diversity of African cichlid fishes.
Project description:Acoustic analyses have become a staple method in field studies of animal vocal communication, with nearly all investigations using computer-based approaches to extract specific features from sounds. Various algorithms can be used to extract acoustic variables that may then be related to variables such as individual identity, context or reproductive state. Habitat structure and recording conditions, however, have strong effects on the acoustic structure of sound signals. The purpose of this study was to identify which acoustic parameters reliably describe features of propagated sounds. We conducted broadcast experiments and examined the influence of habitat type, transmission height, and re-recording distance on the validity (deviation from the original sound) and reliability (variation within identical recording conditions) of acoustic features of different primate call types. Validity and reliability varied independently of each other in relation to habitat, transmission height, and re-recording distance, and depended strongly on the call type. The smallest deviations from the original sounds were obtained by a visually-controlled calculation of the fundamental frequency. Start- and end parameters of a sound were most susceptible to degradation in the environment. Because the recording conditions can have appreciable effects on acoustic parameters, it is advisable to validate the extraction method of acoustic variables from recordings over longer distances before using them in acoustic analyses.
Project description:Toadfishes (Teleostei: Batrachoididae) are one of the best-studied groups for understanding vocal communication in fishes. However, sounds have only been recorded from a low proportion of taxa within the family. Here, we used quantitative bioacoustic, morphological and phylogenetic methods to characterize vocal behavior and mechanisms in the three-spined toadfish, Batrachomoeus trispinosus. B. trispinosus produced two types of sound: long-duration 'hoots' and short-duration 'grunts' that were multiharmonic, amplitude and frequency modulated, with a dominant frequency below 1 kHz. Grunts and hoots formed four major classes of calls. Hoots were typically produced in succession as trains, while grunts occurred either singly or as grunt trains. Aside from hoot trains, grunts and grunt trains, a fourth class of calls consisted of single grunts with acoustic beats, apparently not previously reported for individuals from any teleost taxon. Beats typically had a predominant frequency around 2 kHz with a beat frequency around 300 Hz. Vocalizations also exhibited diel and lunar periodicities. Spectrographic cross-correlation and principal coordinates analysis of hoots from five other toadfish species revealed that B. trispinosus hoots were distinct. Unlike any other reported fish, B. trispinosus had a bilaterally divided swimbladder, forming two separate swimbladders. Phylogenetic analysis suggested B. trispinosus was a relatively basal batrachoidid, and the swimbladder and acoustic beats were independently derived. The swimbladder in B. trispinosus demonstrates that toadfishes have undergone a diversification of peripheral sonic mechanisms, which may be responsible for the concomitant innovations in vocal communication, namely the individual production of acoustic beats as reported in some tetrapods.
Project description:Communication is essential during social interactions including animal conflicts and it is often a complex process involving multiple sensory channels or modalities. To better understand how different modalities interact during communication, it is fundamental to study the behavioural responses to both the composite multimodal signal and each unimodal component with adequate experimental protocols. Here we test how an African cichlid, which communicates with multiple senses, responds to different sensory stimuli in a social relevant scenario. We tested Maylandia zebra males with isolated chemical (urine or holding water coming both from dominant males), visual (real opponent or video playback) and acoustic (agonistic sounds) cues during agonistic interactions. We showed that (1) these fish relied mostly on the visual modality, showing increased aggressiveness in response to the sight of a real contestant but no responses to urine or agonistic sounds presented separately, (2) video playback in our study did not appear appropriate to test the visual modality and needs more technical prospecting, (3) holding water provoked territorial behaviours and seems to be promising for the investigation into the role of the chemical channel in this species. Our findings suggest that unimodal signals are non-redundant but how different sensory modalities interplay during communication remains largely unknown in fish.
Project description:Salient sounds such as those created by drumming can serve as means of nonvocal acoustic communication in addition to vocal sounds. Despite the ubiquity of drumming across human cultures, its origins and the brain regions specialized in processing such signals remain unexplored. Here, we report that an important animal model for vocal communication, the macaque monkey, also displays drumming behavior, and we exploit this finding to show that vocal and nonvocal communication sounds are represented by overlapping networks in the brain's temporal lobe. Observing social macaque groups, we found that these animals use artificial objects to produce salient periodic sounds, similar to acoustic gestures. Behavioral tests confirmed that these drumming sounds attract the attention of listening monkeys similarly as conspecific vocalizations. Furthermore, in a preferential looking experiment, drumming sounds influenced the way monkeys viewed their conspecifics, suggesting that drumming serves as a multimodal signal of social dominance. Finally, by using high-resolution functional imaging we identified those brain regions preferentially activated by drumming sounds or by vocalizations and found that the representations of both these communication sounds overlap in caudal auditory cortex and the amygdala. The similar behavioral responses to drumming and vocal sounds, and their shared neural representation, suggest a common origin of primate vocal and nonvocal communication systems and support the notion of a gestural origin of speech and music.