Ontogenetic Development of Sound Communication in Fishes

  • Friedrich LadichEmail author
Part of the Animal Signals and Communication book series (ANISIGCOM, volume 4)


Investigating the potential ability of juvenile fishes to communicate acoustically requires analysing the development of vocalization and hearing . To date, the ontogeny of both processes has been examined in three non-related species, namely the croaking gourami Trichopsis vittata (family Osphronemidae , order Perciformes), the squeaker catfish Synodontis schoutedeni (family Mochokidae , order Siluriformes) and the Lusitanian toadfish Halobatrachus didactylus (family Batrachoididae , order Batrachoidiformes). Juveniles of all three species vocalized during agonistic behaviour and showed similar changes in sound characteristics despite possessing different sonic mechanisms. With growth, dominant frequencies decreased, whereas sound pressure levels, pulse periods and sound duration (except in the toadfish) increased. Generally, hearing sensitivities improved during development, but differences were observed between species. Croaking gouramis of all stages responded to sounds up to 5 kHz. Auditory sensitivity increased in the high frequency range and the best hearing frequency shifted from 2.5 to 1.5 kHz. In the squeaker catfish, hearing abilities increased up to 2 kHz but showed a decrease at 5 and 6 kHz. The Lusitanian toadfish showed the smallest changes of all three species: the best hearing sensitivity was found at 50 Hz in all stages and hearing improved only at some frequencies. A comparison between audiograms and sound spectra within same-sized fish of the respective species revealed that the main energies of sounds were concentrated within the most sensitive frequencies. The comparison also showed that early-stage gouramis and toadfish probably cannot detect conspecific sounds due to low sound levels and high hearing thresholds . Only the catfish is able to communicate acoustically at all stages of development, most likely due to its Weberian apparatus .


Sound production Hearing sensitivity Auditory evoked potential (AEP) audiometry Accessory hearing structures 


  1. Alderks PW, Sisneros JA (2011) Ontogeny of auditory saccular sensitivity in the plainfin midshipman fish, Porichthys notatus. J Comp Physiol A 197:387–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amorim MCP, Hawkins AD (2005) Ontogeny of acoustic and feeding behaviour in the grey gurnard, Eutrigla gurnardus. Ethology 111:255–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Belanger AJ, Bobeica I, Higgs DM (2010) The effect of stimulus type and background noise on hearing abilities of the round goby Neogobius melanostomus. J Fish Biol 77:1488–1504CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Bertucci F, Scaion D, Beauchaud M, Attia J, Mathevon N (2012) Ontogenesis of agonistic vocalizations in the cichlid fish Metriaclima zebra. C R Biol 335:529–534Google Scholar
  5. Bradbury JW, Vehrencamp SL (1998) Principles of Animal Communication. Sinauer Associates Inc, SunderlandGoogle Scholar
  6. Bradbury JW, Vehrencamp SL (2011) Principles of Animal Communication, 2nd edn. Sinauer Associates Inc, SunderlandGoogle Scholar
  7. Egner SA, Mann DA (2005) Auditory sensitivity of sergeant major damselfish Abudefduf saxatilis from post-settlement juvenile to adult. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 285:213–222CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Henglmüller SM, Ladich F (1999) Development of agonistic behaviour and vocalization in croaking gourami. J Fish Biol 54:380–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Higgs DM, Souza MJ, Wilkins HR, Presson JC, Popper AN (2001) Age- and size related changes in the inner ear and hearing ability of the adult zebrafish (Danio rerio). J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 3:174–184CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Higgs DM, Rollo AK, Souza MJ, Popper AN (2003) Development of form and function in peripheral auditory structures of the zebrafish (Danio rerio). J Acoust Soc Am 113:1145–1154CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Higgs DM, Plachta DTT, Rollo AK, Singheiser M, Hastings MC, Popper AN (2004) Development of ultrasound detection in American shad (Alosa sapidissima). J Exp Biol 207:155–163CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Iwashita A, Sakamoto M, Kojima T, Watanabe Y, Soeda H (1999) Growth effects on the auditory threshold of red sea bream. Nippon Suisan Gakkaishi 65:833–838CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Kenyon TN (1996) Ontogenetic changes in the auditory sensitivity of damselfishes (Pomacentridae). J Comp Physiol A 179:553–561Google Scholar
  14. Kéver L, Boyle KS, Dragičević B, Dulčić J, Casadevall M et al (2012) Sexual dimorphism of sonic apparatus and extreme intersexual variation of sounds in Ophidion rochei (Ophidiidae): first evidence of a tight relationship between morphology and sound characteristics in Ophidiidae. Front Zool 9:34CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Ladich F (1991) Fische schweigen nicht—Lautbildung, Hören und akustische Kommunikation bei Fischen. Naturwiss Rdsch 44:379–384Google Scholar
  16. Ladich F (1997) Agonistic behavior and significance of sounds in vocalizing fish. Mar Freshw Behav Physiol 29:87–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ladich F (2014) Diversity in hearing in fishes: ecoacoustical, communicative, and developmental constraints. In: Köppl C, Manley GA, Popper AN, Fay RR (eds) Insights from comparative hearing. SHAR, vol 49. Springer, New York, pp 289–321Google Scholar
  18. Ladich F, Fay RR (2013) Auditory evoked potential audiometry in fish. Rev Fish Biol Fish 23:317–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ladich F, Fine ML (2006) Sound-generating mechanisms in fishes: a unique diversity in vertebrates. In: Ladich F, Collin SP, Moller P, Kapoor BG (eds) Communication in Fishes. Science Publishers, Enfield, NH, pp 3-43Google Scholar
  20. Ladich F, Myrberg AA (2006) Agonistic behaviour and acoustic communication. In: Ladich F, Collin SP, Moller P, Kapoor BG (eds) Communication in fishes. Science Publishers, Enfield, pp 122–148Google Scholar
  21. Ladich F, Yan HY (1998) Correlation between auditory sensitivity and vocalization in anabantoid fishes. J Comp Physiol A 182:737–746CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Ladich F, Collin SP, Moller P, Kapoor BG (eds) (2006) Communication in fishes. vol. 1. Science Publishers, EnfieldGoogle Scholar
  23. Lechner W, Wysocki LE, Ladich F (2010) Ontogenetic development of auditory sensitivity and sound production in the squeaker catfish Synodontis schoutedeni. BMC Biol 8:10CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Lechner W, Heiss E, Schwaha T, Glösmann M, Ladich F (2011) Ontogenetic development of Weberian ossicles and hearing abilities in the African bullhead catfish. PLoS ONE 6(4):e18511CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lu J, DeSmidt AA (2013) Early development of hearing in zebrafish. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 14:509–521CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. McGregor PK (1992) Playback and studies of animal communication. Plenum Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. McKibben JR, Bass AH (1998) Behavioral assessment of acoustic parameters relevant to signal recognition and preference in a vocal fish. J Acoust Soc Am 104:3520–3533CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Myrberg AA (1981) Sound communication and interception in fishes. In: Tavolga WN, Popper AN, Fay RR (eds) Hearing and sound communication in fishes. Springer, New York, pp 395–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Myrberg AA, Mohler M, Catala JD (1986) Sound production by males of a coral reef fish (Pomacentrus partitus): its significance to females. Anim Behav 34:913–923CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Popper AN (1971) The effects of size on auditory capacities of the goldfish. J Audit Res 11:239–247Google Scholar
  31. Schneider H (1941) Die Bedeutung der Atemhöhle der Labyrinthfische für ihr Hörvermögen. Z vergl Physiol 29:172–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schneider H (1964) Physiologische und morphologische Untersuchungen zur Bioakustik der Tigerfische (Pisces, Theraponidae). Z vergl Physiol 47:493–558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sisneros JA, Bass AH (2005) Ontogenetic changes in the response properties of individual, primary auditory afferents in the vocal plainfin midshipman Porichthys notatus. J Exp Biol 208:3121–3131CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Vasconcelos RO, Ladich F (2008) Development of vocalization, auditory sensitivity and acoustic communication in the Lusitanian toadfish Halobatrachus didactylus. J Exp Biol 211:502–509CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Vierke J (1978) Labyrinthfische und verwandte Arten Wuppertal-Elberfeld. Engelbert Pfriem, VerlagGoogle Scholar
  36. Webb JF, Walsh RM, Casper BM, Mann DA, Kelly N, Cicchino N (2012) Development of the ear, hearing capabilities and laterophysic connection in the spotfin butterflyfish (Chaetodon ocellatus). Environ Biol Fishes 95:275–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wright KJ, Higgs DM, Leis JM (2011) Ontogenetic and interspecific variation in hearing ability in marine fish larvae. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 424:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wysocki LE, Ladich F (2001) The ontogenetic development of auditory sensitivity, vocalization and acoustic communication in the labyrinth fish Trichopsis vittata. J Comp Physiol A 187:177–187CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Yan HY (1998) Auditory role of the suprabranchial chamber in gourami fish. J Comp Physiol A 183:325–333CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Zeddies DG, Fay RR (2005) Development of the acoustically evoked behavioural response in zebra fish to pure tones. J Exp Biol 208:1343–1372CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Behavioural BiologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations