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Electrocommunication behaviour during social interactions in two species of pulse-type weakly electric fishes (Mormyridae)

Authors

  • K. Gebhardt,

    1. University of Bonn, Institute of Zoology, Department of Neuroethology/Sensory Ecology, Endenicher Allee 11-13, 53115 Bonn, Germany
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  • M. Böhme,

    1. University of Bonn, Institute of Zoology, Department of Neuroethology/Sensory Ecology, Endenicher Allee 11-13, 53115 Bonn, Germany
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  • G. von der Emde

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Bonn, Institute of Zoology, Department of Neuroethology/Sensory Ecology, Endenicher Allee 11-13, 53115 Bonn, Germany
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Tel.: +49 228 73 5555; email: vonderemde@uni-bonn.de

Abstract

This study compares electrocommunication behaviour in groups of freely swimming weakly electric fishes of two species, Marcusenius altisambesi and Mormyrus rume. Animals emitted variable temporal sequences of stereotyped electric organ discharges (EOD) that served as communication signals. While the waveform of individual signals remained constant, the inter-discharge interval (IDI) patterns conveyed situation-specific information. Both species showed different types of group behaviour, e.g. they engaged in collective (group) foraging. The results show that in each species, during different behavioural conditions (resting, foraging and agonistic encounters), certain situation-specific IDI patterns occurred. In both species, neighbouring fishes swimming closely together interacted electrically by going in and out of synchronization episodes, i.e. periods of temporally correlated EOD production. These often resulted in echo responses between neighbours. During group foraging, fishes often signalled in a repetitive fixed order (fixed-order signalling). During foraging, EOD emission rates of M. altisambesi were higher and more regular than those of M. rume. The two species also differed in the quantity of group behaviours with M. altisambesi being more social than M. rume, which was reflected in the lack of specific agonistic IDI patterns, more fixed-order signalling and more communal resting behaviour in M. altisambesi.

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