Selective Hearing in One's Mate

Science's STKE  20 Jul 2004:
Vol. 2004, Issue 242, pp. tw266-TW266
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2422004TW266

As it does for many other vertebrates, the mating season for the Pacific midshipman fish brings changes in behaviors. Males migrate to their nesting territory and begin to hum, producing a sound that their female counterparts find irresistible (although human ears have likened the sound to that of a motorboat). Sisneros et al. (see the Perspective by Zakon) now show that the acoustic sensitivity of the inner ear in females is actually adjusted to better match the frequencies put out by the mating hum in response to seasonal changes in circulating steroid hormones. Thus, the effectiveness of the male's siren song is enhanced by seasonally tuned hearing in females.

J. A. Sisneros, P. M. Forlano, D. L. Deitcher, A. H. Bass, Steroid-dependent auditory plasticity leads to adaptive coupling of sender and receiver. Science 305, 404-407 (2004). [Abstract] [Full Text]

H. Zakon, Heeding the hormonal call. Science 305, 349-350 (2004). [Summary] [Full Text]