Temperature dependence of electrocommunication signals and their underlying neural rhythms in the weakly electric fish, Apteronotus leptorhynchus

Brain Behav Evol. 2000 Mar;55(3):152-62. doi: 10.1159/000006649.


Weakly electric fish emit an electric communication signal that is controlled by a highly specialized neural circuit. In Apteronotus, the continuous electric organ discharge (EOD) is generated by electrotonically coupled neurons in the hindbrain pacemaker nucleus, and transient EOD modulations involve chemical synapses from descending midbrain and thalamic prepacemaker nuclei. We characterized the effects of temperature change (18-32 degrees C) on both the continuous EOD and EOD modulations, chirps, in A. leptorhynchus. EOD frequency was linearly related to temperature (Q(10)=1.62). By contrast, the temperature dependence of EOD amplitude changed with temperature. Amplitude increased steeply with temperature below 25 degrees C (Q(10)=2.0), but increased only gradually above 25 degrees C (Q(10)=1.15). EOD waveform, and consequently harmonic content, was also affected by temperature. The amplitude of the second harmonic was relatively high at both low and high temperature and relatively low at intermediate temperatures. The amplitude of the third harmonic increased monotonically with temperature. Thus, temperature has qualitative as well as quantitative effects on the production of the EOD. Chirp rate (Q(1)0=3.2) had a higher temperature dependence than that of the continuous EOD, which likely reflects its reliance on chemical rather than electrotonic synapses. In vitro pacemaker firing frequency had a similar, but slightly higher Q(10) (1.82) than that of the EOD frequency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electric Fish / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Periodicity*