The boatwhistle sound produced by male toadfish during the reproductive season attracts females to the nest site. Boatwhistles consist of a series of rapidly produced, amplitude modulated ‘pulses’ of sound that are generated by specific muscles of the gas bladder. Previous studies have shown that boatwhistle characteristics vary with temperature and geographic location. This study investigated the normal range of variation in boatwhistles produced by males in a northern population of O. tau. Multiple boatwhistles were recorded from individuals at different sites around Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts. Multiple boatwhistles were recorded at different sites to assess the range of variation in boatwhistle production from this population. Pulse repetition rates varied from a low of 125 pulses/sec at 16 ºC to a high of 219 pulses/sec at 21 ºC. Careful examination of recordings from different sites indicated that individuals vary in the durations of their boatwhistles as well as in the pulse repetition rates during the very consistently produced second segment of the call. In particular, pulse repetition rate (PRR) varied significantly (p < 0.001) among most individuals recorded at the same temperatures. Psychophysical testing as well as behavioral choice experiments are needed to assess the relative importance of PRR and spectral cues in species recognition and/or mate choice.
advertisement calls, boatwhistles, individual variation, pulse production, amplitude modulation