Phylogenetic comparative analysis of electric communication signals in ghost knifefishes (Gymnotiformes: Apteronotidae).

TitlePhylogenetic comparative analysis of electric communication signals in ghost knifefishes (Gymnotiformes: Apteronotidae).
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
JournalThe Journal of experimental biology
IssuePt 23

Electrocommunication signals in electric fish are diverse, easily recorded and have well-characterized neural control. Two signal features, the frequency and waveform of the electric organ discharge (EOD), vary widely across species. Modulations of the EOD (i.e. chirps and gradual frequency rises) also function as active communication signals during social interactions, but they have been studied in relatively few species. We compared the electrocommunication signals of 13 species in the largest gymnotiform family, Apteronotidae. Playback stimuli were used to elicit chirps and rises. We analyzed EOD frequency and waveform and the production and structure of chirps and rises. Species diversity in these signals was characterized with discriminant function analyses, and correlations between signal parameters were tested with phylogenetic comparative methods. Signals varied markedly across species and even between congeners and populations of the same species. Chirps and EODs were particularly evolutionarily labile, whereas rises differed little across species. Although all chirp parameters contributed to species differences in these signals, chirp amplitude modulation, frequency modulation (FM) and duration were particularly diverse. Within this diversity, however, interspecific correlations between chirp parameters suggest that mechanistic trade-offs may shape some aspects of signal evolution. In particular, a consistent trade-off between FM and EOD amplitude during chirps is likely to have influenced the evolution of chirp structure. These patterns suggest that functional or mechanistic linkages between signal parameters (e.g. the inability of electromotor neurons increase their firing rates without a loss of synchrony or amplitude of action potentials) constrain the evolution of signal structure.

Short TitleJ Exp Biol
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