Structure and sexual dimorphism of the electrocommunication signals of the weakly electric fish, Adontosternarchus devenanzii.

TitleStructure and sexual dimorphism of the electrocommunication signals of the weakly electric fish, Adontosternarchus devenanzii.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
JournalThe Journal of experimental biology
IssuePt 23

Electrocommunication signals of electric fish vary across species, sexes and individuals. The diversity of these signals and the relative simplicity of the neural circuits controlling them make them a model well-suited for studying the mechanisms, evolution and sexual differentiation of behavior. In most wave-type gymnotiform knifefishes, electric organ discharge (EOD) frequency and EOD modulations known as chirps are sexually dimorphic. In the most speciose gymnotiform family, the Apteronotidae, EOD frequency is higher in males than females in some species, but lower in males than females in others. Sex differences in EOD frequency and chirping, however, have been examined in only three apteronotid species in a single genus, Apteronotus. To understand the diversity of electrocommunication signals, we characterized these behaviors in another genus, Adontosternarchus. Electrocommunication signals of Adontosternarchus devenanzii differed from those of Apteronotus in several ways. Unlike in Apteronotus, EOD frequency was not sexually dimorphic in A. devenanzii. Furthermore, although A. devenanzii chirped in response to playbacks simulating conspecific EODs, the number of chirps did not vary with different stimulus frequencies. A. devenanzii chirps also differed in structure from Apteronotus chirps. Whereas Apteronotus species produce functionally distinct chirp types differing in frequency modulation (FM), A. devenanzii produced only high-frequency chirps that had either single or multiple frequency peaks. Males produced more multi-peaked chirps than females. Thus, the temporal structure of chirps, rather than the amount of FM, delineated chirp types in A. devenanzii. Our results demonstrate that the structure, function and sexual dimorphism of electrocommunication signals are evolutionary labile in apteronotids and may be useful for understanding the diversity of sexually dimorphic behavior.

Short TitleJ Exp Biol
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