Evolutionary adaptations for the temporal processing of natural sounds by the anuran peripheral auditory system

Katrina M. Schrode, Mark A Bee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Sensory systems function most efficiently when processing natural stimuli, such as vocalizations, and it is thought that this reflects evolutionary adaptation. Among the best-described examples of evolutionary adaptation in the auditory system are the frequent matches between spectral tuning in both the peripheral and central auditory systems of anurans (frogs and toads) and the frequency spectra of conspecific calls. Tuning to the temporal properties of conspecific calls is less well established, and in anurans has so far been documented only in the central auditory system. Using auditoryevoked potentials, we asked whether there are species-specific or sex-specific adaptations of the auditory systems of gray treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis) and green treefrogs (H. cinerea) to the temporal modulations present in conspecific calls. Modulation rate transfer functions (MRTFs) constructed from auditory steady-state responses revealed that each species was more sensitive than the other to the modulation rates typical of conspecific advertisement calls. In addition, auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) to paired clicks indicated relatively better temporal resolution in green treefrogs, which could represent an adaptation to the faster modulation rates present in the calls of this species. MRTFs and recovery of ABRs to paired clicks were generally similar between the sexes, and we found no evidence that males were more sensitive than females to the temporal modulation patterns characteristic of the aggressive calls used in male-male competition. Together, our results suggest that efficient processing of the temporal properties of behaviorally relevant sounds begins at potentially very early stages of the anuran auditory system that include the periphery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-848
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd | The Journal of Experimental Biology.


  • Auditory-evoked potentials
  • Communication
  • Gray treefrog
  • Green treefrog
  • Hearing
  • Temporal processing


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