Public Release:  'Seeing' and communication: Electric fish style

The Company of Biologists

Weakly electric fish spend their lives bathed in their own internally generated mild electric field, interpreting perturbations in the field as objects pass through and when communicating with members of their own species through high frequency electric 'chirps'. Rüdiger Krahe, from McGill University, Canada, says, 'These fish are very cryptic and hard for us to understand because we don't have this electric sense'. Electric fish actively produce their weak electric fields; they are not a passive by-product of other physiological functions. In fact, these weak electric fields can be thought of in the same way as the sounds that bats emit for echolocation. Krahe adds that the signals are easy to record, analyse and mimic, allowing researchers to measure the recipient's behavioural response to the signal and then trace the complex train of neural events that relates the behavioural response to the sensory input. Explaining that this enigmatic system has evolved multiple times, Krahe also lists the two currently existing modern groups of weakly electric fish: one in Africa (Mormyriformes) and the other in South America (Gymnotiformes). Teaming up with Eric Fortune, from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA, Krahe has collated an eclectic collection of review articles dedicated to many aspects of the electric fish lifestyle, covering electric sensory coding and neuromodulation, the physiology of the electric organ, electric fish locomotion and evolution. Together, they are publishing this collection on 12 June 2013 in The Journal of Experimental Biology at http://jeb.biologists.org.

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The special issue includes the following articles:

Editorial

Krahe, R. and Fortune, E. S. Electric fishes: neural systems, behaviour and evolution. 2363 2364

Neural coding Reviews

Baker, C. A., Kohashi, T., Lyons-Warren, A. M., Ma, X. and Carlson, B. A. Multiplexed temporal coding of electric communication signals in mormyrid fishes. 2365 2379

Nogueira, J. and Caputi, A. A. From the intrinsic properties to the functional role of a neuron phenotype: an example from electric fish during signal trade-off. 2380 2392

Stamper, S. A., Fortune, E. S. and Chacron, M. J. Perception and coding of envelopes in weakly electric fishes. 2393 2402

Modulation of behaviour and sensory processing Reviews

Gavassa, S., Goldina, A., Silva, A. C. and Stoddard, P. K. Behavioral ecology, endocrinology and signal reliability of electric communication. 2403 2411

Silva, A. C., Perrone, R., Zubizarreta, L., Batista, G. and Stoddard, P. K. Neuromodulation of the agonistic behavior in two species of weakly electric fish that display different types of aggression. 2412 2420

Smith, G. T. Evolution and hormonal regulation of sex differences in the electrocommunication behavior of ghost knifefishes (Apteronotidae). 2421 2433

Dunlap, K. D., Chung, M. and Castellano, J. F. Influence of long-term social interaction on chirping behavior, steroid levels and neurogenesis in weakly electric fish. 2434 2441

Toscano Márquez, B., Krahe, R. and Chacron, M. J. Neuromodulation of early electrosensory processing in gymnotiform weakly electric fish. 2442 2450

Electric organ Reviews

Markham, M. R. Electrocyte physiology: 50 years later. 2451 2458

Salazar, V. L., Krahe, R. and Lewis, J. E. The energetics of electric organ discharge generation in gymnotiform weakly electric fish. 2459 2468

Güth, R., Pinch, M. and Unguez, G. A. Mechanisms of muscle gene regulation in the electric organ of Sternopygus macrurus. 2469 2477

Unguez, G. A. Electric fish: new insights into conserved processes of adult tissue regeneration. 2478 2486

Reviews of locomotion and sensing of weakly electric fish

Hofmann, V., Sanguinetti-Scheck, J. I., Künzel, S., Geurten, B., Gómez-Sena, L. and Engelmann, J. Sensory flow shaped by active sensing: sensorimotor strategies in electric fish. 2487 2500

Neveln, I. D., Bai, Y., Snyder, J. B., Solberg, J. R., Curet, O. M., Lynch, K. M. and MacIver, M. A. Biomimetic and bio-inspired robotics in electric fish research. 2501 2514

Reviews of the evolution of electrosensory and electromotor systems

Baker, C. V. H., Modrell, M. S. and Gillis, J. A. The evolution and development of vertebrate lateral line electroreceptors. 2515 2522

Crampton, W. G. R., Rodríguez-Cattáneo, A., Lovejoy, N. R. and Caputi, A. A. Proximate and ultimate causes of signal diversity in the electric fish Gymnotus. 2523 2541

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