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The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

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Investigations of the development of auditory form and function have, with a few exceptions, thus far been largely restricted to birds and mammals, making it difficult to postulate evolutionary hypotheses. Teleost fishes represent useful models for developmental investigations of the auditory system due to their often extensive period of posthatching development and the diversity of auditory specializations in this group. Using the auditory brainstem response and morphological techniques we investigated the development of auditory form and function in zebrafish (Danio rerio) ranging in size from 10 to 45 mm total length. We found no difference in auditory sensitivity, response latency, or response amplitude with development, but we did find an expansion of maximum detectable frequency from 200 Hz at 10 mm to 4000 Hz at 45 mm TL. The expansion of frequency range coincided with the development of Weberian ossicles in zebrafish, suggesting that changes in hearing ability in this species are driven more by development of auxiliary specializations than by the ear itself. We propose a model for the development of zebrafish hearing wherein the Weberian ossicles gradually increase the range of frequencies available to the inner ear, much as middle ear development increases frequency range in mammals.

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