The marine catfish Arius felis produces low frequency sounds for communication and obstacle detection. It was hypothesized that the utriculus of the inner ear might play an important role in these behaviors. In the current study, brainstem acoustic areas were studied to reveal possible neuroanatomical specializations in utricular processing areas. The first-order octaval nuclei in Arius were identical in number, anatomical characteristics, and organization of saccular, lagenar, and utricular inputs to previous reports of these features in Ictalurus, a closely related species of catfish that does not exhibit the specialized acoustic behaviors present in Arius. Similarly, injections of neural tracer in the acoustic midbrain (nucleus centralis) of Arius revealed afferent and retrograde pathways almost identical to those previously reported in Ictalurus. It is suggested that areas within the primary and higher-order octaval nuclei that utilize utricular input in acoustic processing are likely identical in Arius and Ictalurus. Two sets of higher-order connections in Arius differ from those in Ictalurus. First, Arius apparently lacks the direct input from the anterior octaval nucleus to nucleus centralis reported in Ictalurus. Second, in Arius nucleus centralis projects bilaterally to a strip of neurons positioned ventral to the ventral boundary of the torus semicircularis. This projection is apparently absent in Ictalurus and in the related species Carassius (goldfish), but has been previously reported in Porichthyes, a sound-producing species belonging to a different teleost taxon.

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