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Underwater hearing sensitivity of a male and a female Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus)

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Author: Kastelein, R.A. · Schie, R. van · Verboom, W.C. · Haan, D. de
Institution: TNO Defensie en Veiligheid
Source:Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 3, 118, 1820-1829
Identifier: 238669
doi: doi:10.1121/1.1992650
Keywords: Marine · Audition · Frequency modulation · Sensitivity analysis · Acoustic signals · Audiograms · Detection thresholds · Underwater acoustics · Acoustics · Animal experiment · Audiography · Auditory threshold · Eumetopias jubatus · Hearing acuity · Marine mammal · Seal · Vocalization · Auditory Threshold · Hearing · Sea lions


The unmasked underwater hearing sensitivities of an 8-year-old male and a 7-year-old female Steller sea lion were measured in a pool, by using behavioral psychophysics. The animals were trained with positive reinforcement to respond when they detected an acoustic signal and not to respond when they did not. The signals were narrow-band, frequency-modulated stimuli with a duration of 600 ms and center frequencies ranging from 0.5 to 32 kHz for the male and from 4 to 32 kHz for the female. Detection thresholds at each frequency were measured by varying signal amplitude according to the up-down staircase method. The resulting underwater audiogram (50% detection thresholds) for the male Steller sea lion showed the typical mammalian U-shape. His maximum sensitivity (77 dB re: 1 μPa, rms) occurred at 1 kHz. The range of best hearing (10 dB from the maximum sensitivity) was from 1 to 16 kHz (4 octaves). Higher hearing thresholds (indicating poorer sensitivity) were observed below 1 kHz and above 16 kHz. The maximum sensitivity of the female (73 dB re: 1 μPa, rms) occurred at 25 kHz. Higher hearing thresholds (indicating poorer sensitivity) were observed for signals, below 16 kHz and above 25 kHz. At frequencies for which both subjects were tested, hearing thresholds of the male were significantly higher than those of the female. The hearing sensitivity differences between the male and female Steller sea lion in this study may be due to individual differences in sensitivity between the subjects or due to sexual dimorphism in hearing. © 2005 Acoustical Society of America.