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Sea chordophones make the mysterious /Kwa/ sound: identification of the emitter of the dominant fish sound in Mediterranean seagrass meadows
Bolgan, M.; Soulard, J.; Di Iorio, L.; Gervaise, C.; Lejeune, P.; Gobert, S.; Parmentier, E. (2019). Sea chordophones make the mysterious /Kwa/ sound: identification of the emitter of the dominant fish sound in Mediterranean seagrass meadows. J. Exp. Biol. 222: jeb196931. https://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jeb.196931
In: Journal of Experimental Biology. Cambridge University Press: London. ISSN 0022-0949; e-ISSN 1477-9145, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Scorpaenidae Risso, 1827 [WoRMS]
    Marine/Coastal
Author keywords
    Bioacoustics; Passive acoustic monitoring; Sound production; Acousticcommunication; Scorpaenidae

Authors  Top 
  • Bolgan, M., more
  • Soulard, J., more
  • Di Iorio, L.
  • Gervaise, C.
  • Lejeune, P.
  • Gobert, S., more
  • Parmentier, E., more

Abstract
    The /Kwa/ vocalization dominates the soundscape of Posidonia oceanica meadows but the identity of the species emitting this peculiar fish sound remains a mystery. Information from sounds recorded in the wild indicates that the emitting candidates should be abundant, nocturnal and benthic. Scorpaena spp. combine all these characteristics. This study used an interdisciplinary approach to investigate the vocal abilities of Scorpaena spp.; morphological, histological and electrophysiological examinations were interpreted together with visual and acoustic recordings conducted in semi-natural conditions. All observed Scorpaena spp. (S. porcus, S. scrofa and S. notata) share the same sonic apparatus at the level of the abdominal region. This apparatus, present in both males and females, consists of 3 bilaterally symmetrical muscular bundles, having 3–5 long tendons, which insert on ventral bony apophyses of the vertebral bodies. In all chordophones (stringed instruments), the frequency of the vibration is dependent on the string properties and not on the rate at which the strings are plucked. Similarly, we suggest that each of the 3–5 tendons found in the sonic mechanism of Scorpaena spp. acts as a frequency multiplier of the muscular bundle contractions, where the resonant properties of the tendons determine the peak frequency of the /Kwa/, its frequency spectra and pseudo-harmonic profile. The variability in the length and number of tendons found between and within species could explain the high variability of /Kwa/ acoustic features recorded in the wild. Finally, acoustic and behavioural experiments confirmed that Scorpaena spp. can emit the /Kwa/ sound.

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