Acoustic characteristics and variations in grunt vocalizations in the oyster toadfish Opsanus tau

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Acoustic communication is critical for reproductive success in the oyster toadfish Opsanus tau. While previous studies have examined the acoustic characteristics, behavioral context, geographical variation, and seasonality of advertisement boatwhistle sound production, there is limited information on the grunt or other non-advertisement vocalizations in this species. This study continuously monitored sound production in toadfish maintained in an outdoor habitat for four months to identify and characterize grunt vocalizations, compare them with boatwhistles, and test for relationships between the incidence of grunt vocalizations, sound characteristics and environmental parameters. Oyster toadfish produced grunts in response to handling, and spontaneous single (70% of all grunts), doublet (10%), and trains of grunts (20%) throughout the May to September study period. Grunt types varied in pulse structure, duration, and frequency components, and were shorter and of lower fundamental frequency than the pulse repetition rate of boatwhistles. Higher water temperatures were correlated with a greater number of grunt emissions, higher fundamental frequencies, and shorter sound durations. The number of grunts per day was also positively correlated with daylength and maximum tidal amplitude differences (previously entrained) associated with full and new moons, thus providing the first demonstration of semilunar vocalization rhythms in the oyster toadfish. These data provide new information on the acoustic repertoire and the environmental factors correlated with sound production in the toadfish, and have important implications for seasonal acoustic communication in this model vocal fish.

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Environmental Biology of Fishes

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