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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016. Sounds provide fishes with important information used to mediate behaviors such as predator avoidance, prey detection, and social communication. How we measure auditory capabilities in fishes, therefore, has crucial implications for interpreting how individual species use acoustic information in their natural habitat. Recent analyses have highlighted differences between behavioral and electrophysiologically determined hearing thresholds, but less is known about how physiological measures at different auditory processing levels compare within a single species. Here we provide one of the first comparisons of auditory threshold curves determined by different recording methods in a single fish species, the soniferous Hawaiian sergeant fish Abudefduf abdominalis, and review past studies on representative fish species with tuning curves determined by different methods. The Hawaiian sergeant is a colonial benthic-spawning damselfish (Pomacentridae) that produces low-frequency, low-intensity sounds associated with reproductive and agonistic behaviors. We compared saccular potentials, auditory evoked potentials (AEP), and single neuron recordings from acoustic nuclei of the hindbrain and midbrain torus semicircularis. We found that hearing thresholds were lowest at low frequencies (~75–300 Hz) for all methods, which matches the spectral components of sounds produced by this species. However, thresholds at best frequency determined via single cell recordings were ~15–25 dB lower than those measured by AEP and saccular potential techniques. While none of these physiological techniques gives us a true measure of the auditory “perceptual” abilities of a naturally behaving fish, this study highlights that different methodologies can reveal similar detectable range of frequencies for a given species, but absolute hearing sensitivity may vary considerably.

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Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology

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