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Sound production in the longnose butterflyfishes (genus Forcipiger): cranial kinematics, muscle activity and honest signals
Kelly S. Boyle, Timothy C. Tricas


Many teleost fishes produce sounds for social communication with mechanisms that do not involve swim bladder musculature. Such sounds may reflect physical attributes of the sound-production mechanism, be constrained by body size and therefore control signal reliability during agonistic behaviors. We examined kinematics of the cranium, median fins and caudal peduncle during sound production in two territorial chaetodontid butterflyfish sister species: forcepsfish (Forcipiger flavissimus) and longnose butterflyfish (F. longirostris). During intraspecific agonistic encounters, both species emit a single pulse sound that precedes rapid cranial rotation at velocities and accelerations that exceed those of prey strikes by many ram-and suction-feeding fishes. Electromyography showed that onsets of activity for anterior epaxialis, sternohyoideus, A1 and A2 adductor mandibulae muscles and sound emission are coincident but precede cranial elevation. Observations indicate that sound production is driven by epaxial muscle contraction whereas a ventral linkage between the head and pectoral girdle is maintained by simultaneous activity from the adductor mandibulae and sternohyoideus. Thus, the girdle, ribs and rostral swim bladder are pulled anteriorly before the head is released and rotated dorsally. Predictions of the hypothesis that acoustic signals are indicators of body size and kinematic performance were confirmed. Variation in forcepsfish sound duration and sound pressure level is explained partly by cranial elevation velocity and epaxial electromyogram duration. Body size, however, explains most variation in duration and sound pressure level. These observed associations indicate that forcepsfish sounds may be accurate indicators of size and condition that are related to resource holding potential during social encounters.


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