Manatees inhabit turbid, shallow-water environments and have been shown to have poor visual acuity. Previous studies on hearing have demonstrated that manatees possess good hearing and sound localization abilities. The goals of this research were to determine the hearing abilities of two captive subjects and measure critical ratios to understand the capacity of manatees to detect tonal signals, such as manatee vocalizations, in the presence of noise. This study was also undertaken to better understand individual variability, which has been encountered during behavioral research with manatees. Two Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) were tested in a go/no-go paradigm using a modified staircase method, with incorporated ‘catch’ trials at a 1:1 ratio, to assess their ability to detect single-frequency tonal stimuli. The behavioral audiograms indicated that the manatees’ auditory frequency detection for tonal stimuli ranged from 0.25 to 90.5 kHz, with peak sensitivity extending from 8 to 32 kHz. Critical ratios, thresholds for tone detection in the presence of background masking noise, were determined with one-octave wide noise bands, 7–12 dB (spectrum level) above the thresholds determined for the audiogram under quiet conditions. Manatees appear to have quite low critical ratios, especially at 8 kHz, where the ratio was 18.3 dB for one manatee. This suggests that manatee hearing is sensitive in the presence of background noise and that they may have relatively narrow filters in the tested frequency range.
This work was supported by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Manatee Avoidance Technology Grant Program.
- © 2012.