Ultrasonic Signalling by a Bornean Frog

Biology Letters Abstract:

Among anuran amphibians, only two species, Odorrana tormota and Huia cavitympanum, are known to possess recessed tympanic membranes.

Huia cavitympanum

Huia cavitympanum

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.

Biol Lett. 2008 February 23; 4(1): 19–22.
Published online 2007 November 20. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2007.0494.
PMCID: PMC2413264
Copyright © 2007 The Royal Society

Kirtland Peterson

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