Intra- and Intersexual swim bladder dimorphisms in the plainfin midshipman fish (Porichthys notatus): Implications of swim bladder proximity to the inner ear for sound pressure detection

Robert A. Mohr, Elizabeth A. Whitchurch, Ryan D. Anderson, Paul M. Forlano, Richard R. Fay, Darlene R. Ketten, Timothy C. Cox, Joseph A. Sisneros

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17 Citations (Scopus)


The plainfin midshipman fish, Porichthys notatus, is a nocturnal marine teleost that uses social acoustic signals for communication during the breeding season. Nesting type I males produce multiharmonic advertisement calls by contracting their swim bladder sonic muscles to attract females for courtship and spawning while subsequently attracting cuckholding type II males. Here, we report intra- and intersexual dimorphisms of the swim bladder in a vocal teleost fish and detail the swim bladder dimorphisms in the three sexual phenotypes (females, type I and II males) of plainfin midshipman fish. Micro-computerized tomography revealed that females and type II males have prominent, horn-like rostral swim bladder extensions that project toward the inner ear end organs (saccule, lagena, and utricle). The rostral swim bladder extensions were longer, and the distance between these swim bladder extensions and each inner-ear end organ type was significantly shorter in both females and type II males compared to that in type I males. Our results revealed that the normalized swim bladder length of females and type II males was longer than that in type I males while there was no difference in normalized swim bladder width among the three sexual phenotypes. We predict that these intrasexual and intersexual differences in swim bladder morphology among midshipman sexual phenotypes will afford greater sound pressure sensitivity and higher frequency detection in females and type II males and facilitate the detection and localization of conspecifics in shallow water environments, like those in which midshipman breed and nest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1458-1468
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • communication
  • gas bladder
  • hearing
  • lagena
  • saccule

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