Get access

Sex Differences in the Electrocommunication Signals of the Electric Fish Apteronotus bonapartii

Authors

  • Winnie W. Ho,

    1.  Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA
    2.  Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Cristina Cox Fernandes,

    1.  Department of Biology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA
    2.  Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Manaus, AM, Brazil
    Search for more papers by this author
  • José A. Alves-Gomes,

    1.  Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Manaus, AM, Brazil
    Search for more papers by this author
  • G. Troy Smith

    1.  Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA
    2.  Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA
    3.  Program in Neuroscience, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

Winnie W. Ho, Department of Biology, Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.
E-mail: wwho@indiana.edu

Abstract

The South American weakly electric knifefish (Apteronotidae) produce highly diverse and readily quantifiable electrocommunication signals. The electric organ discharge frequency (EODf) and EOD modulations (chirps and gradual frequency rises) vary dramatically across sexes and species, presenting an ideal opportunity to examine the proximate and ultimate bases of sexually dimorphic behavior. We complemented previous studies on the sexual dimorphism of apteronotid communication signals by investigating electric signal features and their hormonal correlates in Apteronotusbonapartii, a species which exhibits strong sexual dimorphism in snout morphology. Electrocommunication signals were evoked and recorded using a playback paradigm and were analyzed for signal features including EOD frequency and the structure of EOD modulations. To investigate the androgenic correlates of sexually dimorphic EOD signals, we measured plasma concentrations of testosterone and 11-ketotestosterone. A. bonapartii responded robustly to stimulus playbacks. EODf was sexually monomorphic, and males and females produced chirps with similar durations and amounts of frequency modulation. However, males were more likely than females to produce chirps with multiple frequency peaks. Sexual dimorphism in apteronotid electrocommunication signals appears to be highly evolutionarily labile. Extensive interspecific variation in the magnitude and direction of sex differences in EODf and in different aspects of chirp structure suggests that chirp signals may be an important locus of evolutionary change within the clade. The weakly electric fish represent a rich source of data for understanding the selective pressures that shape, and the neuroendocrine mechanisms that underlie, diversity in the sexual dimorphism of behavior.

Ancillary