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bioacoustics in Naturwissenschaften

To: Bioacoustics <>
Subject: bioacoustics in Naturwissenschaften
From: Alan McElligott <>
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2007 23:10:11 +0000 (GMT)
Simone Lange, Hynek Burda, Regina E. Wegner, Philip Dammann, Sabine Begall and 
Mathias Kawalika 

                                Living in a ?stethoscope?: burrow-acoustics 
promote auditory specializations in subterranean rodents


Volume 94, Number 2 / February, 2007 

pp 134 - 138


       Abstract  Subterranean mammals rely to a great extent on audition for 
communication and to be alerted to danger. The only hitherto published report 
on burrow acoustics revealed that in tunnels of blind mole-rats (Spalax 
ehrenbergi), airborne sounds of 440 Hz propagated best whereas lower and higher 
frequencies were effectively attenuated. Morpho-functional analyses classify 
the ear of subterranean mammals as a low-sensitivity and low-frequency device. 
Concordantly, hearing is characterized by low sensitivity and a restricted 
frequency range tuned to low frequencies (0.5?4 kHz). Some authors considered 
the restricted hearing in subterranean mammals vestigial and degenerate due to 
under-stimulation. In contrast to this view stand a rich (mostly low-frequency) 
vocal repertoire and progressive structural specializations of the middle and 
inner ear. Thus, other authors considered these hearing characteristics 
adaptive. To test the hypothesis that acoustical environment in burrows of 
different species of subterranean mammals is similar, we measured sound 
attenuation in burrows of Fukomys mole-rats (formerly known as Cryptomys, cf. 
Kock et al. 2006) of two differently sized species at different locations in 
Zambia. We show that in these burrows, low-frequency sounds (200?800 Hz) are 
not only least attenuated but also their amplitude may be amplified like in a 
stethoscope (up to two times over 1 m). We suggest that hearing sensitivity has 
decreased during evolution of subterranean mammals to avoid over-stimulation of 
the ear in their natural environment.   


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Dr. Alan McElligott  

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