Hearing Capabilities of Selected Fish Species

Auditory thresholds (below) were measured using behavioral methods that enable us to 'ask' fish what they can detect. Using a variety of behavioral paradigms, we can measure auditory thresholds, or the minimal level of sounds that a fish can detect at a particular frequency 50% of the time. In the following audiogram (a representation of threshold at each frequency), we show data for a variety of different species obtained in a number of laboratories. These species were selected since they demonstrate a variety of different points about fish hearing, and represent the range of hearing capabilities in most species that have been studied to date. The only species with a substantially wider hearing range are the cod (Gadus) and the American shad (Alosa), both of which can detect sounds into the ultrasonic range (see our shad page).

In this graph, the species include the goldfish (Carassius), a hearing 'specialist' that has special adaptations for detection of sounds. Carassius represents the otophysan fishes, all of which have Weberian ossicles connecting the swimbladder to the inner ear. Salmo salar (Atlantic salmon) hears very poorly and is considered a hearing 'generalist' (or 'nonspecialist'). The cod (Gadus morhua) is now known to detect sounds to at least 38 kHz, although the data shown here do not represent the ultrasonic detection capabilities of this species. Euthynnus is a tuna without a swimbladder and, like Salmo, is a hearing generalist. Finally, Eupomacentrus is a damselfish that Art Myrberg and his colleagues have shown to use sound in normal behavior. Recent studies in our laboratory have demonstrated that at least one clupeid (herring-like fish), the American shad (Alosa) can detect ultrasonic sounds to over 180 kHz (Mann, Lu and Popper, Nature, 389:341, 1997).




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