Characteristics of sound production and associated pharyngeal jaws in the tomtate grunt Haemulon aurolineatum (Cuvier, 1830) in Caribbean reefs

Morgane Millot, Frédéric Bertucci, David Lecchini , Sarah Smeets, Malika René-Trouillefou, Eric Parmentier


The ability to produce sounds for acoustic communication is well known in different grunt species (Haemulidae). However, most of the sounds have not been described and the sound-producing mechanism of very few grunt species has been deeply studied. Additional data is needed to search for synapomorphy in the sonic mechanism. This study describes acoustic features and branchial anatomy in Haemulon aurolineatum. Correlations were found between some acoustic features and standard length, showing the largest specimens produced shorter, lower-pitched grunts of higher intensity. Examinations of acoustic features and branchial anatomy show that H. aurolineatum uses the same stridulatory mechanism described previously in H. flavolineatum. The unusual feature of Haemulon species concerns the fourth ceratobranchials. These appear to be part of the lower pharyngeal jaws since they possess firmly attached teeth that face the upper pharyngeal jaws. The stridulation results from the rubbing of both pharyngeal and fourth ceratobranchial teeth. This mechanism is probably common to the 23 Haemulon species, but additional information is needed regarding the mechanism of other Haemulinae species to produce stridulatory sounds. Fourth ceratobranchials could constitute a key element of Haemulinae ability to produce sounds providing an eventual synapomorphic aspect of the mechanism in the family.


acoustic communication; pharyngeal jaws; stridulatory mechanism

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