Environmental, seasonal, and social modulations of basal activity in a weakly electric fish

Physiol Behav. 2007 Feb 28;90(2-3):525-36. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.11.003. Epub 2006 Dec 18.


The electric organ discharge (EOD) of weakly electric fish encodes information about species, sex, behavioral, and physiological states throughout the lifetime. Its central command is crucial for sensory-motor coordination, and is therefore the target of plastic mechanisms that adapt fish to environmental and social challenges. The EOD waveform of Brachyhypopomus pinnicaudatus is modulated by environmental factors and the neuroendocrine system. In this study we investigate the effects of water temperature and day-night cycle upon EOD rate in this species during the breeding and non-breeding seasons. During the non-breeding season, EOD rate is a linear function of water temperature and exhibits counterclockwise hysteresis. During breeding, a thermal resistance strategy prevents the decrease of EOD rate to cooling. A nocturnal increase of EOD basal rate independent of water temperature and locomotor activity was demonstrated in isolated non-breeding adults and in male-female dyads all year round. An additional increase of nocturnal EOD rate, probably acting as a social courtship signal, was found in breeding dyads. This additional increase of nocturnal EOD rate could not be fully explained by gonadal maturation and was modulated by social stimuli. This study provides novel data on the complex interactions between environment, reproductive cycle, social behavior, and electromotor output in an advantageous model of the vertebrate central nervous system.

MeSH terms

  • Activity Cycles / physiology
  • Animals
  • Electric Fish / physiology*
  • Electric Organ / physiology*
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Seasons
  • Social Behavior*