Amphibious auditory responses of the American alligator (Alligator mississipiensis)

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Journal of Comparative Physiology A.

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Animals that thrive both on land and underwater are faced with the task of interpreting stimuli in different media. This becomes a challenge to the sensory receptors in that stimuli (e.g., sound, motion) may convey the same type of information but are transmitted with different physical characteristics. We used auditory brainstem responses to examine hearing abilities of a species that makes full use of these two environments, the American alligator (Alligator mississipiensis). In water, alligators responded to tones from 100 Hz to 2,000 Hz, with peak sensitivity at 800 Hz. In air, they responded to tones from 100 Hz to 8,000 Hz, with peak sensitivity around 1,000 Hz. We also examined the contribution to hearing of an air bubble that becomes trapped in the middle ear as the animal submerges. This bubble has been previously implicated in underwater hearing. Our studies show that the trapped air bubble has no affect on auditory thresholds, suggesting the bubble is not an important adaptation for underwater hearing in this species.

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