Most soniferous fishes producing sounds with their swimbladder utilize relatively simple mechanisms: contraction and relaxation of a unique pair of sonic muscles cause rapid movements of the swimbladder resulting in sound production. Here we describe the sonic mechanism for Ophidion barbatum, which includes three pairs of sonic muscles, highly transformed vertebral centra and ribs, a neural arch that pivots and a swimbladder whose anterior end is modified into a bony structure, the rocker bone. The ventral and intermediate muscles cause the rocker bone to swivel inward, compressing the swimbladder, and this action is antagonized by the dorsal muscle. Unlike other sonic systems in which the muscle contraction rate determines sound fundamental frequency, we hypothesize that slow contraction of these antagonistic muscles produces a series of cycles of swimbladder vibration.
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