Journal of Experimental Biology
The Company of Biologists Ltd.
Harlequin frogs, genus Atelopus, communicate at high frequencies despite most species lacking a complete tympanic middle ear that facilitates high-frequency hearing in most anurans and other tetrapods. Here, we tested whether Atelopus are better at sensing high-frequency acoustic sound compared with other eared and earless species in the Bufonidae family, determined whether middle ear variation within Atelopus affects hearing sensitivity and tested potential hearing mechanisms in Atelopus. We determined that at high frequencies (2000–4000 Hz), Atelopus are 10–34 dB more sensitive than other earless bufonids but are relatively insensitive to mid-range frequencies (900–1500 Hz) compared with eared bufonids. Hearing among Atelopus species is fairly consistent, evidence that the partial middle ears present in a subset of Atelopus species do not convey a substantial hearing advantage. We further demonstrate that Atelopus hearing is probably not facilitated by vibration of the skin overlying the normal tympanic membrane region or the body lung wall, leaving the extratympanic hearing pathways in Atelopus enigmatic. Together, these results show Atelopus have sensitive high-frequency hearing without the aid of a tympanic middle ear and prompt further study of extratympanic hearing mechanisms in anurans.
Womack, M.C., Christensen-Dalsgaard, J., Coloma, L.A., and Hoke, K.L. 2018. Sensitive high-frequency hearing in earless and partially eared harlequin frogs (Atelopus). Journal of Experimental Biology, 221(10), jeb169664.