From Sequence to Spike to Spark: Evo-devo-neuroethology of Electric Communication in Mormyrid Fishes

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2013
Authors:Carlson, B. A., Gallant J. R.
Journal:Journal of Neurogenetics
Pagination:106 - 129
Date Published:09/2013

Mormyrid fishes communicate using pulses of electricity, conveying information about their identity, behavioral state, and location. They have long been used as neuroethological model systems because they are uniquely suited to identifying cellular mechanisms for behavior. They are also remarkably diverse, and they have recently emerged as a model system for studying how communication systems may influence the process of speciation. These two lines of inquiry have now converged, generating insights into the neural basis of evolutionary change in behavior, as well as the influence of sensory and motor systems on behavioral diversification and speciation. Here, we review the mechanisms of electric signal generation, reception, and analysis and relate these to our current understanding of the evolution and development of electromotor and electrosensory systems. We highlight the enormous potential of mormyrids for studying evolutionary developmental mechanisms of behavioral diversification, and make the case for developing genomic and transcriptomic resources. A complete mormyrid genome sequence would enable studies that extend our understanding of mormyrid behavior to the molecular level by linking morphological and physiological mechanisms to their genetic basis. Applied in a comparative framework, genomic resources would facilitate analysis of evolutionary processes underlying mormyrid diversification, reveal the genetic basis of species differences in behavior, and illuminate the origins of a novel vertebrate sensory and motor system. Genomic approaches to studying the evo-devo-neuroethology of mormyrid communication represent a deeply integrative approach to understanding the evolution, function, development, and mechanisms of behavior.

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Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith