News Release

Fish talk-os: Studying electrocommunication in the wild

Field research in Panama highlights need to study behavior and sensory scenes in natural environment

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Society for Neuroscience

Courtship and Spawning

video: Courtship and spawning in the wild, interrupted by an intruder. Recorded in Darién, Panama in May, 2012. Replay at 2x real-time. Species: Apteronotus rostratus Fish location: colored circles Chirps: large transparent circles and short tones played at the fish's discharge frequency The interactions of electric fish in the natural habitat are inaccessible to visual observation. Therefore, location and communication were extracted directly from the fish's own electric discharges. view more 

Credit: Henninger et al., JNeurosci (2018)

A field study published in JNeurosci of tropical fish in Central America reveals how the animals use electric fields to communicate in their natural habitat to accomplish coordinated behaviors including mating and reproduction.

The communication system of weakly electric ghost knifefish (Apteronotidae) has been previously studied in laboratory experiments. Taking a more naturalistic approach, Jan Benda,Jörg Henninger and colleagues recorded electric fields emitted by Apteronotus rostratus in a stream in the Panamanian rainforest, which enabled the researchers to study individual social interaction in detail. The researchers discovered that the signals were markedly different in their natural context than those from previous studies in the lab. They found that brief electric "chirps" were used to attract mates while a special long chirp was used by females to signal males to fertilize their eggs. Previous electrophysiological studies have not addressed key features of the observed natural sensory stimuli, highlighting the need to study behavior and sensory scenes in the natural environment.


Article: Statistics of natural communication signals observed in the wild identify important yet neglected stimulus regimes in weakly electric fish


Corresponding authors: Jan Benda, and Jörg Henninger, (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany)

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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