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  1. The inner ear of teleost fishes is composed of three paired multimodal otolithic end organs (saccule, utricle, and lagena), which encode auditory and vestibular inputs via the deflection of hair cells contained within the sensory epithelia of each organ. However, it remains unclear how the multimodal otolithic end organs of the teleost inner ear simultaneously integrate vestibular and auditory inputs. Therefore, microwire electrodes were chronically implanted using a 3-D printed micromanipulator into the utricular nerve of oyster toadfish ( Opsanus tau) to determine how utricular afferents respond to conspecific mate vocalizations termed boatwhistles (180 Hz fundamental frequency) during movement. Utricular afferents were recorded while fish were passively moved using a sled system along an underwater track at variable speeds (velocity: 4.0–12.5 cm/s; acceleration: 0.2–2.6 cm/s 2 ) and while fish freely swam (velocity: 3.5–18.6 cm/s; acceleration: 0.8–29.8 cm/s 2 ). Afferent fiber activities (spikes/s) increased in response to the onset of passive and active movements; however, afferent fibers differentially adapted to sustained movements. In addition, utricular afferent fibers remained sensitive to playbacks of conspecific male boatwhistle vocalizations during both passive and active movements. Here, we demonstrate in alert toadfish that utricular afferents exhibit enhanced activity levels (spikes/s) in response tomore »behaviorally relevant acoustic stimuli during swimming. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The inner ear of teleost fishes is composed of three paired multimodal otolithic end organs, which are sensitive to vestibular and auditory inputs. Previous studies investigating inner ear functions have primarily focused on the effects of unimodal stimuli; therefore, it remains unclear how otolithic end organs simultaneously encode multiple stimuli. Here, we show that utricular afferents remain sensitive to behaviorally relevant acoustic stimuli during swimming.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  2. The anthozoan sea anemone Nematostella vectensis belongs to the phylum of cnidarians which also includes jellyfish and corals. Nematostella are native to United States East Coast marsh lands, where they constantly adapt to changes in salinity, temperature, oxygen concentration and pH. Its natural ability to continually acclimate to changing environments coupled with its genetic tractability render Nematostella a powerful model organism in which to study the effects of common pollutants on the natural development of these animals. Potassium nitrate, commonly used in fertilizers, and Phthalates, a component of plastics are frequent environmental stressors found in coastal and marsh waters. Here we present data showing how early exposure to these pollutants lead to dramatic defects in development of the embryos and eventual mortality possibly due to defects in feeding ability. Additionally, we examined the microbiome of the animals and identified shifts in the microbial community that correlated with the type of water that was used to grow the animals, and with their exposure to pollutants.
  3. In coastal waters, anthropogenic activity and its associated sound have been shown to negatively impact aquatic taxa that rely on sound signaling and reception for navigation, prey location, and intraspecific communication. The oyster toadfish Opsanus tau depends on acoustic communication for reproductive success, as males produce ‘boatwhistle’ calls to attract females to their nesting sites. However, it is unknown if in situ vessel sound impacts intraspecific communication in this species. Passive acoustic monitoring using a 4-hydrophone linear array was conducted in Eel Pond, a small harbor in Woods Hole, MA, USA, to monitor the calling behavior of male toadfish. The number of calls pre- and post-exposure to vessel sound was compared. Individual toadfish were localized, and their approximate sound level exposure was predicted using sound mapping. Following exposure to vessel sound, the number of calls significantly decreased compared to the number of calls pre-exposure, with vessel sound overlapping the frequency range of male toadfish boatwhistles. This study provides support that anthropogenic sound can negatively affect intraspecific communication and suggests that in situ vessel sound has the ability to mask boatwhistles and change the calling behavior of male toadfish. Masking could lead to a reduction in intraspecific communication and lower reproductivemore »efficiency within the Eel Pond toadfish population.« less
  4. The ability to exert self-control varies within and across taxa. Some species can exert self-control for several seconds whereas others, such as large-brained vertebrates, can tolerate delays of up to several minutes. Advanced self-control has been linked to better performance in cognitive tasks and has been hypothesized to evolve in response to specific socio-ecological pressures. These pressures are difficult to uncouple because previously studied species face similar socio-ecological challenges. Here, we investigate self-control and learning performance in cuttlefish, an invertebrate that is thought to have evolved under partially different pressures to previously studied vertebrates. To test self-control, cuttlefish were presented with a delay maintenance task, which measures an individual's ability to forgo immediate gratification and sustain a delay for a better but delayed reward. Cuttlefish maintained delay durations for up to 50–130 s. To test learning performance, we used a reversal-learning task, whereby cuttlefish were required to learn to associate the reward with one of two stimuli and then subsequently learn to associate the reward with the alternative stimulus. Cuttlefish that delayed gratification for longer had better learning performance. Our results demonstrate that cuttlefish can tolerate delays to obtain food of higher quality comparable to that of some large-brained vertebrates.