Amorim, M.C.P., Vasconcelos, R.O., Bolgan, M., Pedroso, S.S. & Fonseca, P.J. (2018) Acoustic communication in marine shallow waters: testing the acoustic adaptivehypothesis in sand gobies.Journal of Experimental Biology, 221(22), 1-35. DOI:10.1242/jeb.183681 (IF2018 3,017; Q1 Biology)
Acoustic communication is an important part of social behaviour of fish species that live or breed in shallow noisy waters. Previous studies have shown that some fish species exploit a quiet window in the background noise for communication. However, it remains to be examined if hearing abilities and sound production of fish are adapted to marine habitats presenting high hydrodynamism. Here we investigated whether the communication system of the painted (Pomatoschistus pictus) and the marbled (P. marmoratus) gobies is adapted to enhance sound transmission and reception in Atlantic shallow water environments. We recorded and measured the sound pressure levels of social vocalizations of both species, as well as snapshots of ambient noise of habitats characterised by different hydrodynamism. Hearing thresholds (in terms of both sound pressure and particle acceleration) and responses to conspecific signals were determined using the Auditory Evoked Potential recording technique. We found that the peak frequency range (100-300 Hz) of acoustic signals matched the best hearing sensitivity in both species and appeared well adapted for short-range communication in Atlantic habitats. Sandy/rocky exposed beaches presented a quiet window, observable even during the breaking of moderate waves, coincident with the main sound frequencies and best hearing sensitivities of both species. Our data demonstrates that the hearing abilities of these gobies are well suited to detect conspecific sounds within typical interacting distances (few body-lengths) in Atlantic shallow waters. These findings lend support to the acoustic adaptive hypothesis, under the sensory drive framework, proposing that signals and perception systems coevolve to be effective within local environment constraints.