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Horm Behav. 2000 Nov;38(3):177-86.

Androgen correlates of socially induced changes in the electric organ discharge waveform of a mormyrid fish.

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Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Weakly electric fish from the family Mormyridae produce pulsatile electric organ discharges (EODs) for use in communication. For many species, male EODs are seasonally longer in duration than those of females, and among males, there are also individual differences in EOD duration. While EOD elongation can be induced by the administration of exogenous androgens, androgen levels have never before been assessed under natural or seminatural conditions. By simulating the conditions occurring during the breeding season in the laboratory, we provide evidence of a sex difference in EOD duration as well as document levels of circulating androgens in males. In this study, we analyzed the nature of social influences on male EOD duration and plasma androgen levels in Brienomyrus brachyistius. Individual males, first housed with a single female and then placed into social groups consisting of three males and three females, showed status-dependent changes in EOD duration. Top-ranking males experienced a relatively large increase in EOD duration. Second-ranking males experienced a more modest increase, and low-ranking males experienced a decrease in EOD duration. These changes were paralleled by differences in circulating levels of plasma 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT), but not testosterone, suggesting that the changes in EOD duration may have been mediated by changes in plasma 11-KT levels. Thus, it appears that EOD duration is an accurate indicator of male status, which is under social and hormonal control.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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