Temperature affects sound production in fish with two sets of sonic organs: The Pictus cat

Friedrich Ladich, Isabelle Maiditsch

Sound communication is affected by ambient temperature in ectothermic animals including fishes. The present study examines the effects of temperature on acoustic signaling in a fish species possessing two different sound-generating mechanisms. The Amazonian Pictus catfish Pimelodus pictus produces low-frequency harmonic sounds (swimbladder drumming muscles) and high-frequency stridulation sounds (rubbing pectoral fin spines in the pectoral girdle). Sounds of 15 juveniles were recorded when hand-held after three weeks of acclimation at 30 °C, 22 °C and again 30 °C. The following sound characteristics were investigated: calling activity, sound duration, fundamental frequency of drumming sounds and dominant frequency of stridulation sounds. The number of both sound types produced within the first minute of experiments did not change with temperature. In contrast, sound duration was significantly shorter at 30 °C than at 22 °C (drumming: 78–560 ms; stridulation: 23–96 ms). The fundamental frequency of drumming sounds and thus the drumming muscle contraction rate varied from 127 Hz to 242 Hz and increased with temperature. The dominant frequency of broadband stridulation sounds ranged from 1.67 kHz to 3.39 kHz and was unaffected by temperature changes. Our data demonstrate that temperature affects acoustic signaling in P. pictus, although the changes differed between sound characteristics and sound type. The effects vary from no change in calling activity and dominant frequency, to an increase in fundamental frequency and shortened duration of both sound types. Together with the known effects of temperature on hearing in the Pictus cat, the present results indicate that global warming may affect acoustic communication in fishes.

Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology
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Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
106054 Zoology, 106051 Behavioural biology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Physiology
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