RESEARCH INTERESTS

SELECTED RESEARCH PROJECTS

My major research interests are animal behaviour and neurophysiology, namely understanding the social role of vocal communication signals and how sounds are produced and detected by the vertebrate nervous system. I am interested in the physiological mechanisms underlying auditory sensitivity  and how changes in the environment (eg. increasing noise pollution) can impact hearing, behavior and possible physiological adaptations.

Presently, my research lines focus on social behavior, vocal communication and auditory sensitivity in fish. I have been using the highly vocal Lusitanian toadfish (Halobatrachus didactylus, Batrachoididae) and, more recently, the zebrafish Danio rerio, as my major study organisms.

Ongoing research projects cover the following topics:  (1) ontogenetic development of multimodal communication; (2) developmental of auditory-vocal systems; (3) hormonal control of auditory sensitivity; and (4) effects of noise on early development and noise pollution.

A parallel project, in collaboration with The University of Hong Kong (Global Night Sky Brightness Monitoring Network), focuses on light pollution in Macau.

2019 | 2022 – ZAN- Acquired hearing loss in the zebrafish model: investigating the mechanisms underlying aging and noise effects on the vertebrate auditory system. 斑馬魚模型的聽力損失:老化以及噪音在脊椎動物的聽覺系統裹影響機制的探討. FDCT 046/2018/A2. Research Team: Raquel O. Vasconcelos (PI), Miguel Godinho Ferreira (Champalimaud Foundation), Dong Liu (Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China).

2016 | 2019 – ZEBRASONIC- Listening to the Environment: Importance of Early Acoustic Experience on Development and Hearing in Zebrafish/ 聆听环境:斑马鱼早期听力及发育的声学体验重要性. FDCT 036/2015/A1. Research Team: Raquel O. Vasconcelos (PI), Andrew H. Bass (team member).

2014 | 2015 – Hormonal control of auditory sensitivity in the zebrafish Danio rerio. Postdoc Associate Fellowship, Cornell University, NY, USA.  (Raquel O. Vasconcelos; Andrew H. Bass lab)

2012 | 2016 – The vocal brain of fish: development of auditory processing and vocal motor control. FDCT 019/2012/A1. Research Team: Raquel O. Vasconcelos (PI), Paulo J. Fonseca (team member), Joseph Sisneros (team member).

2011 – Differential roles of saccule and utricle for directional hearing and vestibular sense in a vocal benthic fish, Halobatrachus didactylus. Research Fellowship from the Grass Foundation, Marine Biological Laboratory, MA, USA. (RO Vasconcelos)

PUBLICATIONS

Breitzler, L., Lau, I. H., Fonseca, P. J., Vasconcelos, R. O. Noise-induced hearing loss in zebrafish: functional and structural inner ear damage and recovery. Under submission.

Lara, R. A., Vasconcelos, R. O. (2019) Characterization of the natural soundscape of zebrafish and comparison with the captive noise conditions. Zebrafish, 16, 152-164. COVER ARTICLE

Amorim, M. C. P., Vasconcelos, R. O., Bolgan, M., Pedroso, S., Fonseca, P. J. (2018) Acoustic communication in marine shallow waters: testing the acoustic adaptive hypothesis in sand gobies. Journal of Experimental Biology, jeb183681.

Chaves. P. P., Valdoria, C. M., Amorim, M. C., Vasconcelos, R. O. (2017) Ontogenetic development of the inner ear saccule and utricle in the Lusitanian toadfish: potential implications for auditory sensitivity. Hearing Research, 352, 112-121.

Vasconcelos, R. O., Alderks, P., Sisneros, J. A. (2016) The development of structure and sensitivity of the fish inner ear. In Sisneros, J. A. (Ed.) Fish Hearing and Bioacoustics: An anthology in honor of Arthur N. Popper and Richard R. Fay. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, Vol. 877, 291-318, Springer Science + Business Media, New York. 

Vasconcelos, R. O., Alderks, P. W., Ramos, A., Fonseca, P. J., Amorim, M. C. P., and Sisneros, J. A. (2015) Vocal differentiation parallels development of auditory saccular sensitivity in a highly soniferous fish. Journal of Experimental Biology 218: 2864-2872. (Featured in Inside JEB – Toadfish hearing improves with age)

Amorim, M. C. P., Vasconcelos, R. O., Fonseca, P. J. (2015) Fish sounds and mate choice. In Ladich, F. (Ed.) Sound Communication in Fishes. Vol. 4, 1-33, Springer-Verlag, Wien.

Vasconcelos, R. O., Sisneros, J. A., Amorim, M. C. P., Fonseca, P. J. (2011) Auditory saccular sensitivity of the vocal Lusitanian toadfish: low frequency tuning allows acoustic communication throughout the year. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 197: 903-913. 

Vasconcelos, R. O., Fonseca, P. J., Amorim, M. C. P, Ladich, F. (2011) Representation of complex vocalizations in the Lusitanian toadfish auditory system: evidence of fine temporal, frequency and amplitude discrimination. Proceedings of Royal Society B 278: 826-834.

Vasconcelos, R. O., Simões, J. M., Almada, V. C., Fonseca, P. J. & Amorim, M. C. P. (2010) Vocal behaviour during territorial intrusions in the Lusitanian toadfish: boatwhistles also function as territorial keep-out signals. Ethology 116: 155-165.

Amorim, M. C. P., Vasconcelos, R. O. & Parreira, B. (2009) Variability in the sonic muscles of the Lusitanian toadfish (Halobatrachus didactylus): acoustic signals may reflect individual quality. Canadian Journal of Zoology 87: 718-725.

Vasconcelos, R. O. & Ladich, F. (2008) Development of vocalization, auditory sensitivity and acoustic communication in the Lusitanian toadfish Halobatrachus didactylus. Journal of Experimental Biology 211: 502-509.

Amorim, M. C. P. & Vasconcelos, R. O. (2008) Variability in the mating calls of the Lusitanian toadfish Halobatrachus didactylus: potential cues for individual recognition. Journal of Fish Biology 72: 1355-1368.

Vasconcelos, R. O., Amorim, M. C. P. & Ladich, F. (2007) Effects of ship noise on the detectability of communication signals in the in the Lusitanian toadfish. Journal of Experimental Biology 210: 2104-2112.

Amorim, M. C. P., Vasconcelos, R. O., Marques, J. & Almada, F. (2006) Seasonal variation of sound production in the Lusitanian toadfish, Halobatrachus didactylus. Journal of Fish Biology 69: 1892-1899.

TEAM

Collaborators

Research

Andrew Bass 
Cornell University, USA

Clara Amorim and Paulo J. Fonseca 
University of Lisbon, Portugal

Joseph A. Sisneros
University of Washington, USA

Jason Chun Shing Pun 
The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Rafael Ayala Lara

PhD Student

Rafael is looking at the effects of environmentally significant noise levels on early development and stress responses in zebrafish.

Lukas Breitzler

Master Student

Lukas’s work focuses on effects of noise exposure on hearing sensitivity (temporary threshold shifts) and inner ear sensory morphology in the adult zebrafish.

Former grad students

Patricia Chaves, MSc student (ISPA, Lisbon)

Mei Ka Lam, MSc student (USJ, Macau)

Yolanda Lau

Research Assistant

Yolanda assists in various studies with a focus on morphological changes in the sensory receptors and underlying molecular mechanisms.

Ciaria Valdoria

former BsC student

Ciara currently collaborates in two projects on “multimodal communication”  and “differential role of inner ear otolithic endorgans for vestibular and hearing senses” in the Lusitanian toadfish.