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Hearing and sound localization in Cottontail rabbits, Sylvilagus floridanus

Abstract

Cottontail rabbits represent the first wild species of the order of lagomorphs whose hearing abilities have been determined. Cottontails, Sylvilagus floridanus, evolved in the New World, but have spread worldwide. Their hearing was tested behaviorally using a conditioned-avoidance procedure. At a level of 60 dB SPL, their hearing ranged from 300 Hz to 32 kHz, a span of 7.5 octaves. Mammalian low-frequency hearing is bimodally distributed and Cottontail rabbits fall into the group that hears below 400 Hz. However, their 300-Hz limit puts them near the gap that separates the two populations. The minimum audible angle of cottontails is 27.6°, making them less acute than most other species of mammals. Their large sound-localization threshold is consistent with the observation that mammals with broad fields of best vision require less acuity to direct their eyes to the sources of sound.

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Acknowledgements

Supported by National Institutes of Health grant, DC00179. We thank Kristin Flohe for her help in testing the rabbits.

Funding

NIH Grant DC00179.

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All authors contributed to data collection, analysis, and writing.

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Correspondence to Rickye S. Heffner.

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University of Toledo Animal Care and Use Committee.

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Heffner, R.S., Koay, G. & Heffner, H.E. Hearing and sound localization in Cottontail rabbits, Sylvilagus floridanus. J Comp Physiol A 206, 543–552 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00359-020-01424-8

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Keywords

  • Behavioral audiogram
  • Low-frequency hearing
  • Comparative hearing
  • Sound localization and vision
  • Animal psychophysics