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1.  Evidence for hearing loss in amblyopsid cavefishes 
Biology Letters  2013;9(3):20130104.
The constant darkness of caves and other subterranean habitats imposes sensory constraints that offer a unique opportunity to examine evolution of sensory modalities. Hearing in cavefishes has not been well explored, and here we show that cavefishes in the family Amblyopsidae are not only blind but have also lost a significant portion of their hearing range. Our results showed that cave and surface amblyopsids shared the same audiogram profile at low frequencies but only surface amblyopsids were able to hear frequencies higher than 800 Hz and up to 2 kHz. We measured ambient noise in aquatic cave and surface habitats and found high intensity peaks near 1 kHz for streams underground, suggesting no adaptive advantage in hearing in those frequencies. In addition, cave amblyopsids had lower hair cell densities compared with their surface relative. These traits may have evolved in response to the loud high-frequency background noise found in subterranean pools and streams. This study represents the first report of auditory regression in a subterranean organism.
doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0104
PMCID: PMC3645044  PMID: 23536444
auditory; evolution; fish; subterranean
2.  By the Teeth of Their Skin, Cavefish Find Their Way 
Current biology : CB  2012;22(16):R629-R630.
doi:10.1016/j.cub.2012.06.035
PMCID: PMC3427538  PMID: 22917507
3.  Aerial Jumping in the Trinidadian Guppy (Poecilia reticulata) 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61617.
Many fishes are able to jump out of the water and launch themselves into the air. Such behavior has been connected with prey capture, migration and predator avoidance. We found that jumping behavior of the guppy Poecilia reticulata is not associated with any of the above. The fish jump spontaneously, without being triggered by overt sensory cues, is not migratory and does not attempt to capture aerial food items. Here, we use high speed video imaging to analyze the kinematics of the jumping behavior P. reticulata. Fish jump from a still position by slowly backing up while using its pectoral fins, followed by strong body trusts which lead to launching into the air several body lengths. The liftoff phase of the jump is fast and fish will continue with whole body thrusts and tail beats, even when out of the water. This behavior occurs when fish are in a group or in isolation. Geography has had substantial effects on guppy evolution, with waterfalls reducing gene flow and constraining dispersal. We suggest that jumping has evolved in guppies as a behavioral phenotype for dispersal.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061617
PMCID: PMC3629028  PMID: 23613883
4.  Evolution of a behavioral shift mediated by superficial neuromasts helps cavefish find food in darkness 
Current biology : CB  2010;20(18):1631-1636.
Summary
How cave animals adapt to life in darkness is a poorly understood aspect of evolutionary biology [1]. Here we identify a behavioral shift and its morphological basis in Astyanax mexicanus, a teleost with a sighted surface dwelling form (surface fish) and various blind cave dwelling forms (cavefish) [2–4]. Vibration attraction behavior (VAB) is the ability of fish to swim toward the source of a water disturbance in darkness. VAB was typically seen in cavefish, rarely in surface fish, and advantageous for feeding success in the dark. The potential for showing VAB has a genetic component and is linked to the mechanosensory function of the lateral line. VAB was evoked by vibration stimuli peaking at 35 Hz, blocked by lateral line inhibitors, appeared after developmental increases in superficial neuromast (SN) number and size [5–7], and was significantly reduced by bilateral ablation of SN. We conclude that VAB and SN enhancement co-evolved to compensate for loss of vision and help blind cavefish find food in darkness.
doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.07.017
PMCID: PMC2946428  PMID: 20705469
5.  Detection of Interaural Time Differences in the Alligator 
The auditory systems of birds and mammals use timing information from each ear to detect interaural time difference (ITD). To determine whether the Jeffress-type algorithms that underlie sensitivity to ITD in birds are an evolutionarily stable strategy, we recorded from the auditory nuclei of crocodilians, who are the sister group to the birds. In alligators, precisely timed spikes in the first-order nucleus magnocellularis (NM) encode the timing of sounds, and NM neurons project to neurons in the nucleus laminaris (NL) that detect interaural time differences. In vivo recordings from NL neurons show that the arrival time of phase-locked spikes differs between the ipsilateral and contralateral inputs. When this disparity is nullified by their best ITD, the neurons respond maximally. Thus NL neurons act as coincidence detectors. A biologically detailed model of NL with alligator parameters discriminated ITDs up to 1 kHz. The range of best ITDs represented in NL was much larger than in birds, however, and extended from 0 to 1000 μs contralateral, with a median ITD of 450 μs. Thus, crocodilians and birds employ similar algorithms for ITD detection, although crocodilians have larger heads.
doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.6154-08.2009
PMCID: PMC3170862  PMID: 19553438
6.  Interaural timing difference circuits in the auditory brainstem of the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) 
In the auditory system, precise encoding of temporal information is critical for sound localization, a task with direct behavioral relevance. Interaural timing differences are computed using axonal delay lines and cellular coincidence detectors in nucleus laminaris (NL). We present morphological and physiological data on the timing circuits in the emu, Dromaius novaehollandiae, and compare these results with those from the barn owl (Tyto alba) and the domestic chick (Gallus gallus). Emu NL was composed of a compact monolayer of bitufted neurons whose two thick primary dendrites were oriented dorsoventrally. They showed a gradient in dendritic length along the presumed tonotopic axis. The NL and nucleus magnocellularis (NM) neurons were strongly immunoreactive for parvalbumin, a calcium-binding protein. Antibodies against synaptic vesicle protein 2 and glutamic acid decarboxlyase revealed that excitatory synapses terminated heavily on the dendritic tufts, while inhibitory terminals were distributed more uniformly. Physiological recordings from brainstem slices demonstrated contralateral delay lines from NM to NL. During whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, NM and NL neurons fired single spikes and were doubly-rectifying. NL and NM neurons had input resistances of 30.0 ± 19.9 MΩ and 49.0 ± 25.6 MΩ, respectively, and membrane time constants of 12.8 ± 3.8 ms and 3.9 ± 0.2 ms. These results provide further support for the Jeffress model for sound localization in birds. The emu timing circuits showed the ancestral (plesiomorphic) pattern in their anatomy and physiology, while differences in dendritic structure compared to chick and owl may indicate specialization for encoding ITDs at low best frequencies.
doi:10.1002/cne.20862
PMCID: PMC2948976  PMID: 16435285
avian; nucleus laminaris; nucleus magnocellularis; dendrite; coincidence detection; sound localization

Results 1-6 (6)