The return to water in ancestral Xenopus was accompanied by a novel mechanism for producing and shaping vocal signals. Academic Article uri icon


  • Listeners locate potential mates using species-specific vocal signals. As tetrapods transitioned from water to land, lungs replaced gills, allowing expiration to drive sound production. Some frogs then returned to water. Here we explore how air-driven sound production changed upon re-entry to preserve essential acoustic information on species identity in the secondarily aquatic frog genus Xenopus. We filmed movements of cartilage and muscles during evoked sound production in isolated larynges. Results refute the current theory for Xenopus vocalization, cavitation, and favor instead sound production by mechanical excitation of laryngeal resonance modes following rapid separation of laryngeal arytenoid discs. Resulting frequency resonance modes (dyads) are intrinsic to the larynx rather than due to neuromuscular control. Dyads are a distinctive acoustic signature. While their component frequencies overlap across species, their ratio is shared within each Xenopus clade providing information on species identity that could facilitate both conspecific localization and ancient species divergence. Editorial note: This article has been through an editorial process in which the authors decide how to respond to the issues raised during peer review. The Reviewing Editor's assessment is that all the issues have been addressed (see decision letter).

publication date

  • January 8, 2019

published in