Evolution and hormonal regulation of sex differences in the electrocommunication behavior of ghost knifefishes (Apteronotidae).

TitleEvolution and hormonal regulation of sex differences in the electrocommunication behavior of ghost knifefishes (Apteronotidae).
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
JournalThe Journal of experimental biology
IssuePt 13
Date Published2013

The ghost knifefishes (family Apteronotidae) are one of the most successful and diverse families of electric fish. Like other weakly electric fish, apteronotids produce electric organ discharges (EODs) that function in electrolocation and communication. This review highlights the diversity in the structure, function and sexual dimorphism of electrocommunication signals within and across apteronotid species. EOD frequency (EODf) and waveform vary as a function of species, sex and/or social rank. Sex differences in EODf are evolutionarily labile; apteronotid species express every pattern of sexual dimorphism in EODf (males>females; males<females; males=females). The direction and magnitude of sex differences in EODf are correlated across species and populations with the responsiveness of EODf to androgens and/or estrogens, which suggests that sex differences evolve through gains and/or losses of hormone sensitivity. During social interactions, apteronotids also modulate their EODs to produce motivational signals known as chirps. Chirp structure differs markedly across species, and many species produce two or more discrete chirp types with potentially different functions. The structure of chirps is sexually dimorphic in all apteronotid species, and chirping is influenced by gonadal steroids and by neuromodulators. Encoding of chirps by the electrosensory system depends on the social context created by the interactions of the EODs of signalers and receivers. Electrosensory systems may thus influence the evolution of signal structure and function, and neuromodulators may coordinately shape the production and reception of electrocommunication signals depending on social context.

Short TitleJ Exp Biol
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