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J Exp Biol. 2002 Aug;205(Pt 15):2183-8.

Weakfish sonic muscle: influence of size, temperature and season.

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Washington College, Department of Biology, 300 Washington Avenue, Chestertown, MD 21620, USA.


The influence of temperature, size and season on the sounds produced by the sonic muscles of the weakfish Cynoscion regalis are categorized and used to formulate a hypothesis about the mechanism of sound generation by the sonic muscle and swimbladder. Sounds produced by male weakfish occur at the time and location of spawning and have been observed in courtship in captivity. Each call includes a series of 6-10 sound pulses, and each pulse expresses a damped, 2-3 cycle acoustic waveform generated by single simultaneous twitches of the bilateral sonic muscles. The sonic muscles triple in mass during the spawning season, and this hypertrophy is initiated by rising testosterone levels that trigger increases in myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic cross-sectional area of sonic muscle fibers. In response to increasing temperature, sound pressure level (SPL), dominant frequency and repetition rate increase, and pulse duration decreases. Likewise, SPL and pulse duration increase and dominant frequency decreases with fish size. Changes in acoustic parameters with fish size suggest the possibility that drumming sounds act as an 'honest' signal of male fitness during courtship. These parameters also correlate with seasonally increasing sonic muscle mass. We hypothesize that sonic muscle twitch duration rather than the resonant frequency of the swimbladder determines dominant frequency. The brief (3.5 ms), rapidly decaying acoustic pulses reflect a low-Q, broadly tuned resonator, suggesting that dominant frequency is determined by the forced response of the swimbladder to sonic muscle contractions. The changing dominant frequency with temperature in fish of the same size further suggests that frequency is not determined by the natural frequency of the bladder because temperature is unlikely to affect resonance. Finally, dominant frequency correlates with pulse duration (reflecting muscle twitch duration), and the inverse of the period of the second cycle of acoustic energy approximates the recorded frequency. This paper demonstrates for the first time that the dominant frequency of a fish sound produced by a single muscle twitch is apparently determined by the velocity of the muscle twitch rather than the natural frequency of the swimbladder.

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