Tympanic sound radiation in the bullfrog Rana catesbeiana
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Members of the Rana catesbeiana clade display sexually dimorphic eardrums. In this species assemblage the eardrum of males can be 50% larger than in females of the same body size. There has been, however, no apparent functional explanation for this dimorphism. Measurements of the acoustical coupling (transfer function) of internally generated sound to the enlarged eardrum of male bullfrogs (R. catesbeiana) show distinct energy peaks coincident with those observed in the spectral envelopes of the release and mating calls. Moreover, when the tympanic membranes are artificially damped the spectrum of the release call is drastically altered and the total amount of power radiated decreases substantially. These observations point to a previously unsuspected role for the ears in the sound broadcasting process of the bullfrog and possibly other anurans with similarly modified tympanic membranes.
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