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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2002 Sep;188(8):649-57. Epub 2002 Sep 7.

Electrocommunication signals in female brown ghost electric knifefish, Apteronotus leptorhynchus.

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Section of Neurobiology, University of Texas at Austin, PAT 316A Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Female communication behaviors are often overlooked by researchers in favor of male behaviors, which are usually more overt and easier to elicit. Very little is known about female electrocommunication behaviors in brown ghost knifefish, a weakly electric wavetype Gymnotiform fish. Most behavioral studies have focused on males, and fish are usually restrained and played a stimulus near their own electric organ discharge frequency to evoke chirps (abrupt short-term frequency rises) or the jamming avoidance response. Our study focuses on categorizing and describing spontaneous and evoked electric organ discharge modulations in free-swimming female fish that were either electrically coupled to tanks containing a conspecific (male or female), or left isolated. Cluster analysis of signals produced under isolated and social conditions revealed three categories of rises: short rise, medium rise and long rise; and one category of frequency decrease (dip). Females produce significantly more short rises when electrically coupled to tanks containing lower-frequency females, and produce more long rises when electrically coupled to tanks containing males. Short rises may have an intrasexual aggressive function, while long rises may serve as an advertisement of status or reproductive condition in intersexual interactions.

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