Biophysics of underwater hearing in the clawed frog, Xenopus laevis

J Comp Physiol A. 1995 Mar;176(3):317-24. doi: 10.1007/BF00219057.


Anesthetized clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) were stimulated with underwater sound and the tympanic disk vibrations were studied using laser vibrometry. The tympanic disk velocities ranged from 0.01 to 0.5 mm/s (at a sound pressure of 2 Pa) in the frequency range of 0.4-4 kHz and were 20-40 dB higher than those of the surrounding tissue. The frequency response of the disk had two peaks, in the range of 0.6-1.1 kHz and 1.6-2.2 kHz, respectively. The first peak corresponded to the peak vibrations of the body wall overlying the lung. The second peak matched model predictions of the pulsations of the air bubble in the middle ear cavity. Filling the middle ear cavity with water lowered the disk vibrations by 10-30 dB in the frequency range of 0.5-3 kHz. Inflating the lungs shifted the low-frequency peak downwards, but did not change the high-frequency peak. Thus, the disk vibrations in the frequency range of the mating call (main energy at 1.7-1.9 kHz) were mainly caused by pulsations of the air in the middle ear cavity; sound transmission via the lungs was more important at low frequencies (below 1 kHz). Furthermore, the low-frequency peak could be reversibly reduced in amplitude by loading the larynx with metal or tissue glue. This shows that the sound-induced vibrations of the lungs are probably coupled to the middle ear cavities via the larynx. Also, anatomical observations show that the two middle ear cavities and the larynx are connected in an air-filled recess in submerged animals.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Ear, Middle / anatomy & histology
  • Ear, Middle / physiology
  • Hearing / physiology*
  • Immersion
  • Larynx / anatomy & histology
  • Lung / physiology
  • Mathematics
  • Sound
  • Vibration
  • Xenopus laevis / anatomy & histology
  • Xenopus laevis / physiology*