Hearing in cavefishes

Daphne Soares, Matthew L. Niemiller, Dennis M. Higgs

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Caves and associated subterranean habitats represent some of the harshest environments on Earth, yet many organisms, including fishes, have colonized and thrive in these habitats despite the complete absence of light, and other abiotic and biotic constraints. Over 170 species of fishes are considered obligate subterranean inhabitants (stygobionts) that exhibit some degree of troglomorphy, including degeneration of eyes and reduction in pigmentation. To compensate for lack of vision, many species have evolved constructive changes to non-visual sensory modalities. In this chapter we review hearing in cavefishes, with particular emphasize on our own studies on amblyopsid cavefishes. Hearing in cavefishes has not been well studied to date, as hearing ability has only been examined in four species. Two species show no differences in hearing ability relative to their surface relatives, while the other two species (family Amblyopsidae) exhibit regression in the form of reduced hearing range and reduction in hair cell densities on sensory epithelia. In addition to reviewing our current knowledge on cavefish hearing, we offer suggestions for future avenues of research on cavefish hearing and discuss the influence of Popper and Fay on the field of cavefish bioacoustics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFish Hearing and Bioacoustics
Subtitle of host publicationAn Anthology in Honor of Arthur N. Popper and Richard R. Fay
EditorsJoseph A. Sisneros
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)0065-2598
ISSN (Electronic)2214-8019


  • Acoustic
  • Auditory
  • Evolution
  • Fish
  • Subterranean
  • INHS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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