Electrocommunication in a Species of Weakly Electric Fish Apteronotus Leptorhynchus: Signal Patterning and Behaviour

Title: Electrocommunication in a Species of Weakly Electric Fish Apteronotus Leptorhynchus: Signal Patterning and Behaviour
Authors: Hupé, Ginette Jessica
Date: 2012
Abstract: Weakly electric fish produce and detect electric fields and use their electrosensory modality in a number of behaviours including navigation and communication. They can modulate their electric discharge in frequency and amplitude to produce electrocommunication signals in variable patterns during social interactions. In one model neuroethological species, Apteronotus leptorhynchus, the most commonly produced communication signal is the ‘small chirp’ – a brief 10-30ms modulation. Individuals tend to produce these signals at high rates during agonistic interactions. In this thesis I will explore the social value of chirps, and to a lesser extent other communication behaviours, in A. leptorhynchus using a variety of experimental designs involving different staged social contexts. I use time series analysis methods to explore the patterns of chirps produced and accompanying aggressive behaviours. I first characterize electrocommunication and chirping in pairs of free swimming fish and correlate signal production with aggressive displays. Bursts of echoed, or reciprocated, chirps tend to be produced in the intervals separating aggressive attacks. Behavioural analysis shows that fish respond to conspecific chirps with echoed chirps and decreased aggression in social contexts outside the range in which previous modelling and electrophysiological data predicted that chirps could be encoded effectively. I then characterize the chirping and aggressive responses to playbacks simulating intruders with different chirping styles to test whether alternative chirp patterns differentially influence conspecific behaviour. In response to simulated intruders producing chirps that echo the real fish’s chirps with a short latency, less aggressive fish tend to produce more of their chirps in bursts than more aggressive fish. For randomly chirping intruders, the response of fish depends on the rate of chirps delivered. Fish respond less aggressively, with fewer chirps, and echo the stimulus chirps at a higher rate when high rates of random chirps are delivered than when responding to simulated intruders with low rates of randomly delivered chirps. Further, across all playback scenarios, fish that produce chirps in response to the playbacks are more aggressive than those that do not chirp. Finally, to better understand the electrosensory inputs during these interactions, I characterize changes in the electric image received by a restrained fish during movements of a free-swimming conspecific and correlate these with chirp production. When one fish is restrained, bursts of chirps tend to be associated with approach behaviours. Communication signals often function to promote individual assessment of potential rivals during agonistic encounters and bursty, antiphonal chirp exchanges may facilitate these assessments and deter potentially costly physical escalations.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/20675
CollectionThèses, 2011 - // Theses, 2011 -
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