June 20, 2024

Underwater Sound Detection Thresholds (0.031-80 kHz) of Two California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) and a Revised Generic Audiogram for the Species


Ronald A. Kastelein, Lean Helder-Hoek, Laura Van Acoleyen, Linde N. Defillet, Léonie A. E. Huijser, and John M. Terhune


Document: Article

Abstract: Unmasked behavioral audiograms of two California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), an adult female (F01) and a subadult male (M02), were recorded using narrow-band frequency-modulated hearing test signals. Signals had a duration of 1 s and center frequencies ranging from 0.031 to 80 kHz. Hearing thresholds were measured by varying test signal amplitude according to the up-down staircase method. The resulting underwater audiograms (50% detection thresholds) of the two sea lions were similar and showed the typical mammalian U-shape. Maximum hearing sensitivity (58 and 57 dB re 1 mPa) occurred at 11.3 kHz for F01 and at 8 kHz for M02, respectively. The range of best hearing (defined as < 10 dB from the maximum sensitivity) was from 1 to 16 kHz (four octaves). The detection thresholds for hearing test signal frequencies 0.031, 0.040, and 0.050 kHz were lower than expected, possibly caused by a shift in perceptional modality from auditory to vibrotactile, or due to the difficulty in measuring accurate SPLs of such low frequencies in a pool. Measurements of particle motion deemed detection of these very low frequencies via the vibrissae unlikely. The present study extends the frequency range for which the hearing of California sea lions has been tested. Based on the two audiograms of the present study and audiograms reported by Reichmuth et al. (2013) and Cunningham & Reichmuth (2016), a revised generic audiogram for California sea lions is proposed.

Key Words: anthropogenic noise, audiogram, California sea lion, Zalophus californianus, detection threshold, hearing range, hearing sensitivity, low-frequency (LF) sound, Otariidae, pinniped

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1578/AM.49.5.2023.422

Page Numbers: 422-435

Kastelein et al. is Open Access: Click here for PDF

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