Using whole-cell patch-clamp recordings, we measured changes in membrane capacitance (ΔCm) in two subsets of hair cells from the leopard frog amphibian papilla (AP): the low-frequency (100–500 Hz), rostral hair cells and the high-frequency (500–1200 Hz), caudal hair cells, in order to investigate tonotopic differences in exocytosis. Depolarizations of both rostral and caudal hair cells evoked robust ΔCm responses of similar amplitude. However, the calcium dependence of release, i.e., the relationship between ΔCm relative to the amount of calcium influx (QCa2+), was found to be linear in rostral hair cells but supra-linear in caudal hair cells. In addition, the higher numbers of vesicles released at caudal hair cell active zones suggests increased temporal precision of caudal hair cell exocytosis. ΔCm responses were also obtained in response to sinusoidal stimuli of varying frequency, but neither rostral nor caudal hair cell ΔCm revealed any frequency selectivity. While all AP hair cells express both otoferlin and synaptotagmin IV (SytIV), we obtained evidence of a tonotopic distribution of the calcium buffer calretinin which may further increase temporal resolution at the level of the hair cell synapse. Our findings suggest that the low (rostral) and high (caudal) frequency hair cells apply different mechanisms for fine-tuning exocytosis.
auditory hair cells; calcium; exocytosis; capacitance measurements; frequency tuning
The structure of the environment surrounding signal emission produces different patterns of degradation and attenuation. The expected adjustment of calls to ensure signal transmission in an environment was formalized in the acoustic adaptation hypothesis. Within this framework, most studies considered anuran calls as fixed attributes determined by local adaptations. However, variability in vocalizations as a product of phenotypic expression has also been reported. Empirical evidence supporting the association between environment and call structure has been inconsistent, particularly in anurans. Here, we identify a plausible causal structure connecting environment, individual attributes, and temporal and spectral adjustments as direct or indirect determinants of the observed variation in call attributes of the frog Hypsiboas pulchellus. For that purpose, we recorded the calls of 40 males in the field, together with vegetation density and other environmental descriptors of the calling site. Path analysis revealed a strong effect of habitat structure on the temporal parameters of the call, and an effect of site temperature conditioning the size of organisms calling at each site and thus indirectly affecting the dominant frequency of the call. Experimental habitat modification with a styrofoam enclosure yielded results consistent with field observations, highlighting the potential role of call flexibility on detected call patterns. Both, experimental and correlative results indicate the need to incorporate the so far poorly considered role of phenotypic plasticity in the complex connection between environmental structure and individual call attributes.
acoustic adaptation hypothesis; call adjustment; Hypsiboas pulchellus; local adaptation; phenotypic plasticity; scale
Call rate suppression is a common short-term solution for avoiding acoustic interference in animals. It has been widely documented between and within frog species, but the effects of non-anuran calling on frog vocalizations is less well known. Heterospecific acoustic interference on the calling of Oophaga pumilio (Bauer, 1994) (formerly Dendrobates pumilio) males was studied in a lowland, wet tropical forest in SE Nicaragua. Acoustic playback experiments were conducted to characterize the responses of O. pumilio males to interfering calls of cicadas, two species of crickets and a sympatric dendrobatid frog, Phyllobates lugubris. Call rate, call bout duration, percent of time calling, dominant frequency and latency to first-call were analyzed. Significant call rate suppression was observed during all stimulus playbacks, yet no significant differences were found in spontaneous call rates during pre- and post-playback trials. Dominant frequency significantly decreased after P. lugubris playback and first-call latency significantly decreased in response to both cicada and tree cricket playbacks. These results provide robust evidence that O. pumilio males can dynamically modify their calling pattern in unique ways, depending on the source of the heterospecific acoustic interference.
amphibian; vocalizations; playback experiments; call rate suppression; dendrobatidae
The frog inner ear contains three regions that are sensitive to airborne sound and which are functionally distinct. (1) The responses of nerve fibres innervating the low-frequency, rostral part of the amphibian papilla (AP) are complex. Electrical tuning of hair cells presumably contributes to the frequency selectivity of these responses. (2) The caudal part of the AP covers the mid-frequency portion of the frog's auditory range. It shares the ability to generate both evoked and spontaneous otoacoustic emissions with the mammalian cochlea and other vertebrate ears. (3) The basilar papilla functions mainly as a single auditory filter. Its simple anatomy and function provide a model system for testing hypotheses concerning emission generation. Group delays of stimulus frequency otoacoustic emissions (SFOAEs) from the basilar papilla are accounted for by assuming that they result from forward and reverse transmission through the middle ear, a mechanical delay due to tectorial membrane filtering and a rapid forward and reverse propagation through the inner ear fluids, with negligible delay.
Frog; amphibian papilla; basilar papilla; frequency selectivity; tectorial membrane; otoacoustic emission
When amphibian papillar hair cells (APHCs) of the leopard frog, Rana pipiens pipiens, are osmotically challenged, they exhibit a characteristically asymmetric (rectifying) response: Small decreases (5%, or less) in the extracellular solution’s osmolarity do not significantly affect the cells’ volume; larger decreases produce a relatively slow volume increase in APHCs, while exposure to a hyperosmotic medium leads to rapid shrinking of these cells. Furthermore, the rate of volume change appears to be a function of the rate of extracellular osmotic change.
These characteristics make the application of methods devised for the estimation of the osmotic permeability coefficient (Pf) for semipermeable membranes – i.e. those with significant permeability only to water – to APHC membrane rather futile. We have therefore devised a method that takes both the permeability to solutes as well as the kinetics of the osmolarity change into consideration, in order to obtain estimates of Pf that are to a large degree independent of these factors. We have compared the new and earlier methods.
Using the new method, we have estimated the Pf of APHCs’ plasma membrane to be in the 10−2-cm/s range, and thus significantly larger than those reported for lipid bilayers. APHC’s membrane Pf appears to be cell-size independent and insensitive to extracellular mercury. These results suggest that APHCs express water-permeable channels in their plasma membrane. Furthermore, we suggest that asymmetric and rate dependent shape changes produced by osmolarity changes in APHCs imply the presence of significant permeability to solutes. The significance of transmembrane solute transport and water channel expression in amphibian auditory hair cells is discussed.
auditory hair cells; amphibian papilla; osmotic permeability coefficient
bats; exaptation; frogs; Huia cavitympanum; Odorrana tormota; predator avoidance; rodents; signal-to-noise-ratio; terrestrial vertebrates; ultrasonic communication
During female mate choice, both the male's phenotype and resources (e.g. his nest) contribute to the chooser's fitness. Animals other than humans are not known to advertise resource characteristics to potential mates through vocal communication; although in some species of anurans and birds, females do evaluate male qualities through vocal communication. Here, we demonstrate that calls of the male Emei music frog (Babina dauchina), vocalizing from male-built nests, reflect nest structure information that can be recognized by females. Inside-nest calls consisted of notes with energy concentrated at lower frequency ranges and longer note durations when compared with outside-nest calls. Centre frequencies and note durations of the inside calls positively correlate with the area of the burrow entrance and the depth of the burrow, respectively. When given a choice between outside and inside calls played back alternately, more than 70 per cent of the females (33/47) chose inside calls. These results demonstrate that males of this species faithfully advertise whether or not they possess a nest to potential mates by vocal communication, which probably facilitates optimal mate selection by females. These results revealed a novel function of advertisement calls, which is consistent with the wide variation in both call complexity and social behaviour within amphibians.
sexual selection; sound communication; mate choice; burrowing frog; phonotaxis tests
Acoustic communication involves both the generation and the detection of a signal. In the coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui), it is known that the spectral contents of its calls systematically change with altitude above sea level. Here, distortion product otoacoustic emissions are used to assess the frequency range over which the inner ear is sensitive. It is found that both the spectral contents of the calls and the inner-ear sensitivity change in a similar fashion along an altitudinal gradient. As a result, the call frequencies and the auditory tuning are closely matched at all altitudes. We suggest that the animal's body size determines the frequency particulars of the call apparatus and the inner ear.
coqui frog; Eleutherodactylus; otoacoustic emission; vocalization
The concave-eared torrent frog, Odorrana tormota, has evolved the extraordinary ability to communicate ultrasonically (i.e., using frequencies > 20 kHz), and electrophysiological experiments have demonstrated that neurons in the frog’s midbrain (torus semicircularis) respond to frequencies up to 34 kHz. However, at this time, it is unclear which region(s) of the torus and what other brainstem nuclei are involved in the detection of ultrasound. To gain insight into the anatomical substrate of ultrasound detection, we mapped expression of the activity-dependent gene, egr-1, in the brain in response to a full-spectrum mating call, a filtered, ultrasound-only call, and no sound. We found that the ultrasound-only call elicited egr-1 expression in the superior olivary and principal nucleus of the torus semicircularis. In sampled areas of the principal nucleus, the ultrasound-only call tended to evoke higher egr-1 expression than the full-spectrum call and, in the center of the nucleus, induced significantly higher egr-1 levels than the no-sound control. In the superior olivary nucleus, the full-spectrum and ultrasound-only calls evoked similar levels of expression that were significantly greater than the control, and egr-1 induction in the laminar nucleus showed no evidence of acoustic modulation. These data suggest that the sampled areas of the principal nucleus are among the regions sensitive to ultrasound in this species.
Ultrasonic communication; Anuran amphibian; Sensory physiology; Playback; China
Sound stimulates the tympanic membrane (TM) of anuran amphibians through multiple, poorly understood pathways. It is conceivable that interactions between the internal and external inputs to the TM contribute to the non-linear effects that noise is known to produce at higher levels of the auditory pathway. To explore this issue we conducted measurements of TM vibration in response to tones in the presence of noise in the frog Eupsophus calcaratus. Laser vibrometry revealed that the power spectra (n=16) of the TM velocity in response to pure tones at a constant level of 80 dB SPL had a maximum centered at an average frequency of 2344 Hz (range 1700–2990 Hz) and a maximum velocity of 61.1 dB re 1 μm/s (range 42.9–66.6 dB re 1 μm/s). These TM vibration velocity response profiles in the presence of increasing levels of 4-kHz band-pass noise were unaltered up to noise levels of 90 dB SPL. For the relatively low spectral densities of the noise used, the TM remains in its linear range. Such vibration patterns facilitate the detection of tonal signals in noise at the tympanic membrane, and may underlie the remarkable vocal responsiveness maintained by males of E. calcaratus under noise interference.
Anurans; Noise exposure; Tympanic membrane
The majority of anuran amphibians (frogs and toads) use acoustic communication to mediate sexual behavior and reproduction. Generally, females find and select their mates using acoustic cues provided by males in the form of conspicuous advertisement calls. In these species, vocal signal production and reception are intimately tied to successful reproduction. Research with anurans has demonstrated that acoustic communication is modulated by reproductive hormones, including gonadal steroids and peptide neuromodulators. Most of these studies have focused on the ways in which hormonal systems influence vocal signal production; however, here we will concentrate on a growing body of literature that examines hormonal modulation of call reception. This literature suggests that reproductive hormones contribute to the coordination of reproductive behaviors between signaler and receiver by modulating sensitivity and spectral filtering of the anuran auditory system. It has become evident that the hormonal systems that influence reproductive behaviors are highly conserved among vertebrate taxa, thus studying the endocrine and neuromodulatory bases of acoustic communication in frogs and toads can lead to insights of broader applicability to hormonal modulation of vertebrate sensory physiology and behavior.
anurans; arginine vasotocin; auditory system; gonadal steroids; sensory physiology
Using video, fluorescence and confocal microscopy, quantitative analysis and modeling, we investigated intracellular processes mediating the calcium/calmodulin (Ca2+/CaM)-dependent slow motility in hair cells dissociated from the rostral region of amphibian papilla, one of the two auditory organs in frogs. The time course of shape changes in these hair cells during the period of pretreatment with several specific inhibitors, as well as their response to the calcium ionophore, ionomycin, were recorded and compared. These cells respond to ionomycin with a tri-phasic shape change: an initial phase of iso-volumetric length decrease; a period of concurrent shortening and swelling; and the final phase of increase in both length and volume. We found that both the myosin light chain kinase inhibitor, ML-7, and antagonists of the multifunctional Ca2+/CaM-dependent kinases, KN-62 and KN-93, inhibit the iso-volumetric shortening phase of the response to ionomycin. The type 1 protein phosphatase inhibitors, calyculin A and okadaic acid induce minor shortening on their own, but do not significantly alter the phase 1 response. However, they appear to counter effects of the inhibitors of Ca2+/CaM-dependent kinases. We hypothesize that an active actomyosin-based process mediates the iso-volumetric shortening in the frog rostral amphibian papillar hair cells.
auditory hair cells; kinase/phosphatase dependence; iso-volumetric shortening
Huia cavitympanum, an endemic Bornean frog, is the first amphibian species known to emit exclusively ultrasonic (i.e., >20 kHz) vocal signals. To test the hypothesis that these frogs use purely ultrasonic vocalizations for intraspecific communication, we performed playback experiments with male frogs in their natural calling sites. We found that the frogs respond with increased calling to broadcasts of conspecific calls containing only ultrasound. The field study was complemented by electrophysiological recordings from the auditory midbrain and by laser Doppler vibrometer measurements of the tympanic membrane's response to acoustic stimulation. These measurements revealed that the frog's auditory system is broadly tuned over high frequencies, with peak sensitivity occurring within the ultrasonic frequency range. Our results demonstrate that H. cavitympanum is the first non-mammalian vertebrate described to communicate with purely ultrasonic acoustic signals. These data suggest that further examination of the similarities and differences in the high-frequency/ultrasonic communication systems of H. cavitympanum and Odorrana tormota, an unrelated frog species that produces and detects ultrasound but does not emit exclusively ultrasonic calls, will afford new insights into the mechanisms underlying vertebrate high-frequency communication.
Among anuran amphibians, only two species, Odorrana tormota and Huia cavitympanum, are known to possess recessed tympanic membranes. Odorrana tormota is the first non-mammalian vertebrate demonstrated to communicate with ultrasonic frequencies (above 20 kHz), and the frogs' sunken tympana are hypothesized to play a key role in their high-frequency hearing sensitivity. Here we present the first data on the vocalizations of H. cavitympanum. We found that this species emits extraordinarily high-frequency calls, a portion of which are comprised entirely of ultrasound. This represents the first documentation of an anuran species producing purely ultrasonic signals. In addition, the vocal repertoire of H. cavitympanum is highly variable in frequency modulation pattern and spectral composition. The frogs' use of vocal signals with a wide range of dominant frequencies may be a strategy to maximize acoustic energy transmission to both nearby and distant receivers. The convergence of these species' call characteristics should stimulate additional, phylogenetically based studies of other lower vertebrates to provide new insight into the mechanistic and evolutionary foundations of high-frequency hearing in all vertebrate forms.
Odorrana tormota; Huia cavitympanum; ultrasonic communication; ultrasound; convergence
Distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) are weak sounds emitted from the ear when it is stimulated with two tones. They are a manifestation of the nonlinear mechanics of the inner ear. As such, they provide a noninvasive tool for the study of the inner ear mechanics involved in the transduction of sound into nerve fiber activity. Based on the DPOAE phase behavior as a function of frequency, it is currently believed that mammalian DPOAEs are the combination of two components, each generated by a different mechanism located at a different location in the cochlea. In frogs, instead of a cochlea, two separate hearing papillae are present. Of these, the basilar papilla (BP) is a relatively simple structure that essentially functions as a single auditory filter. A two-mechanism model of DPOAE generation is not expected to apply to the BP. In contrast, the other hearing organ, the amphibian papilla (AP), exhibits a tonotopic organization. In the past it has been suggested that this papilla supports a traveling wave in its tectorial membrane. Therefore, a two-mechanism model of DPOAE generation may be applicable for DPOAEs from the AP. In the present study we report on the amplitude and phase of DPOAEs in the frog ear in a detailed f1, f2 area study. The result is markedly different from that in the mammalian cochlea. It indicates that DPOAEs generated by neither papilla agree with the two-mechanism traveling wave model. This confirms our expectation for the BP and does not support the hypothesized presence of a mechanical traveling wave in the AP.
distortion product otoacoustic emissions; amphibian; frog; traveling wave; two-mechanism DPOAE model