Insights into fish auditory structure–function relationships from morphological and behavioural ontogeny in a maturing sciaenid
Knowledge of the relationship between auditory form and function is necessary to understand the role of hearing in fish ecology, as well as the potential impacts of anthropogenic noise and environmental change on hearing-mediated functions. We explored the functional significance of otolith (ear stone) morphology in a large predatory sciaenid, Argyrosomus japonicus (Temminck and Schlegel), by comparing ontogenetic changes in otolith structure to changes in habitat, diet and swimming activity. We examined an otolith metric that has previously been linked to habitat use and activity in fishes, the relative sensory area (sulcus to otolith area ratio, S:O), and a new metric that quantifies the protuberant structure (calcareous concrescence) found on the distal surface of sciaenid otoliths (otolith perimeter to area ratio, P:SA). Strong allometric growth of the sulcus acusticus was detected in the sagitta of A. japonicus ranging from 7 to 80 cm TL. Both S:O and P:SA changed rapidly until A. japonicus reached 50 cm TL, after which only a gradual increase in relative sensory area was detected. The aspect ratio of the caudal fin (CAR, an index of swimming activity) abruptly increased in A. japonicus at 41–50 cm TL. These changes coincide with an observed shift in diet from benthic invertebrates to pelagic fish, a shift in foraging habitat and an increase in foraging activity.
We thank T. Lombarte, A. Popper, J. Ramcharitar, M. Hastings and A. Bass for advice provided whilst preparing this manuscript. The authors also wish to thank T. Mullaney, H. El-Hassan, A. Pursche and K. Taylor for assistance in various areas of this study.
This work was supported in part by a grant from the New South Wales Recreational Saltwater Fishing Trust and an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (#LP0219596).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of New South Wales (UNSW), and were reviewed and approved by the UNSW Animal Care and Ethics Committee (Permit Number: ACEC #02/115).
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