Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 101, Issue 7, pp 1175–1193 | Cite as

Acoustic communication in the Bocon toadfish (Amphichthys cryptocentrus)

  • Andria K. Salas
  • Preston S. Wilson
  • Michael J. Ryan


The soundscapes of many coastal habitats include vocalizations produced by species of the family Batrachoididae (toadfish and midshipman). We describe the calling and grunting behavior of male Amphichthys cryptocentrus, a tropical toadfish, and predict how these vocalizations are influenced by conspecifics. We recorded individual males, which produced broadband grunts and multi-note, harmonic “boatwhistle” calls. Grunts were either in combination with calls or stand-alone. We used a null model to test if these latter grunts were produced at random or in response to calls from conspecifics. The model supports the hypothesis that grunts were in response to calls from neighboring males, suggesting acoustic competition. Using the most conservative estimate of hearing abilities we predict that males responded to the second harmonic of neighbor’s calls (230 Hz) at amplitudes of approximately 100–125 dB re 1μPa2/Hz. We also observed that call and grunt rates increased when males were exposed to higher rates of acoustic activity from neighboring fish. Fish used grunts to respond to background calls that occurred at different amplitudes, suggesting they responded to the calls of multiple neighboring fish and not just the highest amplitude neighbor. This communication with multiple fish within hearing range suggests a communication network in which the spatial distribution of individual toadfish relative to one another will impact their vocal behavior. Thus, the density and distribution, and not just abundance, of these toadfish at a given site will influence the characteristics of the chorus and the role of this species in the local soundscape.


Toadfish Batrachoididae Amphichthys cryptocentrus Acoustic communication Bioacoustics Soundscapes 



We thank the following funding sources for partial support: The University of Texas at Austin Integrative Biology Department’s Zoology Scholarship Endowment for Excellence award (A. Salas), Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Short-term Fellowship (A. Salas), and the Office of Naval Research (P. Wilson). We thank Dr. Megan Ballard at the UT Austin Applied Research Laboratories for providing the code appearing in Online Resource 3.

Compliance with ethical standards

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. University of Texas at Austin IACUC protocol AUP -2015-00070.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10641_2018_767_MOESM1_ESM.wmv (39.1 mb)
Online Resource 1 Video of Amphichthys cryptocentrus toadfish exiting burrow to retrieve and consume an urchin dropped by a snorkeler (WMV 40084 kb)
10641_2018_767_MOESM2_ESM.wav (1 mb)
Online Resource 2 Audio of toadfish calls and grunts shown in spectrogram and waveform in Fig. 1. Audio is amplified 3× (WAV 1033 kb)
10641_2018_767_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (67 kb)
Online Resource 3 MATLAB code used to generate the spectrograms and absolute amplitudes reported in this study (PDF 66 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andria K. Salas
    • 1
  • Preston S. Wilson
    • 2
  • Michael J. Ryan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Mechanical Engineering DepartmentUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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