Anterior lateral line nerve encoding to tones and play-back vocalisations in free-swimming oyster toadfish, Opsanus tau. Academic Article uri icon


  • In the underwater environment, sound propagates both as a pressure wave and as particle motion, with particle motion dominating close to the source. At the receptor level, the fish ear and the neuromast hair cells act as displacement detectors, and both are potentially stimulated by the particle motion component of sound. The encoding of the anterior lateral line nerve to acoustic stimuli in freely behaving oyster toadfish, Opsanus tau, was examined. Nerve sensitivity and directional responses were determined using spike rate and vector strength analysis, a measure of phase-locking of spike times to the stimulus waveform. All units showed greatest sensitivity to 100 Hz stimulus. While sensitivity was independent of stimuli orientation, the neuron's ability to phase-lock was correlated with stimuli origin. Two different types of units were classified, type 1 (tonic), and type 2 (phasic). The type 1 fibres were further classified into two sub-types based on their frequency response (type 1-1 and type 1-2), which was hypothesised to be related to canal (type 1-1) and superficial (type 1-2) neuromast innervation. Lateral line units also exhibited sensitivity and phase locking to boatwhistle vocalisations, with greatest spike rates exhibited at the onset of the call. These results provide direct evidence that oyster toadfish can use their lateral line to detect behaviourally relevant acoustic stimuli, which could provide a sensory pathway to aid in sound source localisation.

publication date

  • May 1, 2014