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A comparison of auditory brainstem responses across diving bird species

August 1, 2015

There is little biological data available for diving birds because many live in hard-to-study, remote habitats. Only one species of diving bird, the black-footed penguin (Spheniscus demersus), has been studied in respect to auditory capabilities (Wever et al., Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 63:676–680, 1969). We, therefore, measured in-air auditory threshold in ten species of diving birds, using the auditory brainstem response (ABR). The average audiogram obtained for each species followed the U-shape typical of birds and many other animals. All species tested shared a common region of the greatest sensitivity, from 1000 to 3000 Hz, although audiograms differed significantly across species. Thresholds of all duck species tested were more similar to each other than to the two non-duck species tested. The red-throated loon (Gavia stellata) and northern gannet (Morus bassanus) exhibited the highest thresholds while the lowest thresholds belonged to the duck species, specifically the lesser scaup (Aythya affinis) and ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis). Vocalization parameters were also measured for each species, and showed that with the exception of the common eider (Somateria mollisima), the peak frequency, i.e., frequency at the greatest intensity, of all species' vocalizations measured here fell between 1000 and 3000 Hz, matching the bandwidth of the most sensitive hearing range.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title A comparison of auditory brainstem responses across diving bird species
DOI 10.1007/s00359-015-1024-5
Authors Sara E. Crowell, Alicia Berlin, Catherine E. Carr, Glenn H. Olsen, Ronald E. Therrien, Sally E. Yannuzzi, Darlene R. Ketten
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Comparative Physiology A
Index ID 70155900
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

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