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Hear Res. 2002 Jul;169(1-2):36-46.

Can fishes resolve temporal characteristics of sounds? New insights using auditory brainstem responses.

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Institute of Zoology, University of Vienna, Althanstrasse 14, A-1090, Vienna, Austria.


Numerous fish species produce broad-band pulsed sounds with a distinct temporal patterning which is thought to be important during intraspecific communication. In order to determine whether fishes are able to utilize temporal characteristics of acoustic signals, time resolution was determined in four species of otophysines and anabantoids by analyzing auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) to double-click stimuli with varying click periods. At click periods of 3.5 ms, two distinct ABRs were clearly detectable in all species. The minimum pulse period resolvable by the auditory system was below 1.5 ms in each species and slightly intensity-dependent. No differences were found between vocal and non-vocal species within each taxon. Comparisons of the time resolution data to the pulse periods of intraspecific sounds in the vocal species showed that the otophysine Platydoras costatus and the anabantoid Trichopsis vittata are likely to process each pulse within a series of intraspecific sounds. However, as non-vocal and vocal species have a similar minimum resolvable click period, the high temporal resolution capacities of the auditory system of fish might not represent special adaptations for intraspecific acoustic communication. Nonetheless, we suggest that temporal characteristics of naturally occurring conspecific and heterospecific sounds provide reliable information for acoustic communication.

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