Gekko gecko as a model organism for understanding aspects of laryngeal vocal evolution

Read the full article See related articles

Listed in

This article is not in any list yet, why not save it to one of your lists.
Log in to save this article


The ability to communicate through vocalization plays a key role in the survival of animals across all vertebrate groups. While avian reptiles have received much attention relating to their stunning sound repertoire, non-avian reptiles have been wrongfully assumed to have less elaborate vocalization types and little is known about the biomechanics of sound production and their underlying neural pathways. We investigated alarm calls of Gekko gecko using audio and cineradiographic recordings of their alarm calls. Acoustic analysis revealed three distinct call types: a sinusoidal call type (type 1), a train-like call type, characterized by distinct pulse trains (type 3), and an intermediary type, which showed both sinusoidal and pulse train components (type 2). Kinematic analysis of cineradiographic recordings showed that laryngeal movements differ significantly between respiratory and vocal behavior: during respiration, animals repeatedly moved their jaws to partially open their mouths, which was accompanied by small glottal movements. During vocalization, the glottis was pulled back, contrasting with what has previously been reported. In-vitro retrograde tracing of the nerve innervating the laryngeal constrictor and dilator muscles revealed round to fusiform motoneurons in the hindbrain-spinal cord transition ipsilateral to the labeled nerve. Taken together, our observations provide insight into the alarm calls generated by G. gecko , the biomechanics of this sound generation and the underlying organization of motoneurons involved in the generation of vocalizations. Our observations suggest that G. gecko may be an excellent non-avian reptile model organism for enhancing our understanding of the evolution of vertebrate vocalization.

Summary Statement

Investigation of Gekko gecko alarm calls revealed distinct call types, during which the larynx is being pulled back by muscles innervated by motoneurons located in the hindbrain.

Article activity feed