Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 201, Issue 3, pp 305–315 | Cite as

Pectoral sound generation in the blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus

  • Yasha Mohajer
  • Zachary Ghahramani
  • Michael L. FineEmail author
Original Paper


Catfishes produce pectoral stridulatory sounds by “jerk” movements that rub ridges on the dorsal process against the cleithrum. We recorded sound synchronized with high-speed video to investigate the hypothesis that blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus produce sounds by a slip–stick mechanism, previously described only in invertebrates. Blue catfish produce a variably paced series of sound pulses during abduction sweeps (pulsers) although some individuals (sliders) form longer duration sound units (slides) interspersed with pulses. Typical pulser sounds are evoked by short 1–2 ms movements with a rotation of 2°–3°. Jerks excite sounds that increase in amplitude after motion stops, suggesting constructive interference, which decays before the next jerk. Longer contact of the ridges produces a more steady-state sound in slides. Pulse pattern during stridulation is determined by pauses without movement: the spine moves during about 14 % of the abduction sweep in pulsers (~45 % in sliders) although movement appears continuous to the human eye. Spine rotation parameters do not predict pulse amplitude, but amplitude correlates with pause duration suggesting that force between the dorsal process and cleithrum increases with longer pauses. Sound production, stimulated by a series of rapid movements that set the pectoral girdle into resonance, is caused by a slip–stick mechanism.


Sound production Functional morphology Biomechanics Acoustic communication Anti-predator adaptation 



We thank Dr. Gary Tepper, Virginia Commonwealth University Mechanical Engineering, for the high-speed camera, Tim Cameron for discussions on acoustics and Heba Ali for the drawing of the catfish pectoral spine and cleithrum. David Hoppler and Matt Balazik provided catfish. Work was conducted under Institutional Animal Care and Use Protocol AD20216. Contribution 52 from the Rice Center of Virginia Commonwealth University. ZNG was supported by a graduate student award from the Rice Center of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 2 (WMV 1002 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yasha Mohajer
    • 1
  • Zachary Ghahramani
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael L. Fine
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of BiologyVirginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmondUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Brooklyn CollegeCity University of New YorkBrooklynUSA

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