Electric pulse characteristics can enable species recognition in African weakly electric fish species

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2018
Authors:Nagel, R., Kirschbaum, F., Hofmann, V., Engelmann, J., Tiedemann R.
Journal:Scientific Reports
Date Published:Jan-12-2018

Communication is key to a wide variety of animal behaviours and multiple modalities are often involved in this exchange of information from sender to receiver. The communication of African weakly electric fish, however, is thought to be predominantly unimodal and is mediated by their electric sense, in which species-specific electric organ discharges (EODs) are generated in a context-dependent and thus variable sequence of pulse intervals (SPI). While the primary function of the electric sense is considered to be electrolocation, both of its components likely carry information regarding identity of the sender. However, a clear understanding of their contribution to species recognition is incomplete. We therefore analysed these two electrocommunication components (EOD waveform and SPI statistics) in two sympatric mormyrid Campylomormyrus species. In a set of five playback conditions, we further investigated which components may drive interspecific recognition and discrimination. While we found that both electrocommunication components are species-specific, the cues necessary for species recognition differ between the two species studied. While the EOD waveform and SPI were both necessary and sufficient for species recognition in C. compressirostris males, C. tamandua males apparently utilize other, non-electric modalities. Mapped onto a recent phylogeny, our results suggest that discrimination by electric cues alone may be an apomorphic trait evolved during a recent radiation in this taxon.

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