Evidence for hearing loss in amblyopsid cavefishes
ecology, evolution, neuroscience
The constant darkness of caves and other subterranean habitats imposes sensory constraints that offer a unique opportunity to examine evolution of sensory modalities. Hearing in cavefishes has not been well explored, and here we show that cavefishes in the family Amblyopsidae are not only blind but have also lost a significant portion of their hearing range. Our results showed that cave and surface amblyopsids shared the same audiogram profile at low frequencies but only surface amblyopsids were able to hear frequencies higher than 800 Hz and up to 2 kHz. We measured ambient noise in aquatic cave and surface habitats and found high intensity peaks near 1 kHz for streams underground, suggesting no adaptive advantage in hearing in those frequencies. In addition, cave amblyopsids had lower hair cell densities compared with their surface relative. These traits may have evolved in response to the loud high-frequency background noise found in subterranean pools and streams. This study represents the first report of auditory regression in a subterranean organism.
Niemiller, Matthew L.; Higgs, Dennis M.; and Soares, Daphne, "Evidence for hearing loss in amblyopsid cavefishes" (2013). Biology Letters, 9, 3.