Audiograms of five species of rodents: implications for the evolution of hearing and the perception of pitch

Hear Res. 2001 Jul;157(1-2):138-52. doi: 10.1016/s0378-5955(01)00298-2.


Behavioral audiograms were determined for five species of rodents: groundhog (Marmota monax), chipmunk (Tamias striatus), Darwin's leaf-eared mouse (Phyllotis darwinii), golden hamster (Mesocricetus auratus), and Egyptian spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus). The high-frequency hearing of these animals was found to vary inversely with interaural distance, a typical mammalian pattern. With regard to low-frequency hearing, the animals fell into two groups: those with extended low-frequency hearing (chipmunks, groundhogs, and hamsters hear below 100 Hz) and those with restricted low-frequency hearing (spiny and leaf-eared mice do not hear appreciably below 1 kHz). An analysis of mammalian hearing reveals that the distribution of low-frequency hearing limits is bimodal with the two distributions separated by a gap from 125 to 500 Hz. The correspondence of this dichotomy with studies of temporal coding raises the possibility that mammals that do not hear below 500 Hz do not use temporal encoding for the perception of pitch.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cricetinae
  • Female
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Hearing Tests
  • Male
  • Marmota
  • Mesocricetus
  • Pitch Perception / physiology*
  • Rodentia / physiology*
  • Sciuridae
  • Species Specificity