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Comparative Study
, 5 (2), 225-8

Electrifying Love: Electric Fish Use Species-Specific Discharge for Mate Recognition

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Comparative Study

Electrifying Love: Electric Fish Use Species-Specific Discharge for Mate Recognition

Philine G D Feulner et al. Biol Lett.

Abstract

Mate choice is mediated by a range of sensory cues, and assortative mating based on these cues can drive reproductive isolation among diverging populations. A specific feature of mormyrid fish, the electric organ discharge (EOD), is used for electrolocation and intraspecific communication. We hypothesized that the EOD also facilitates assortative mating and ultimately promotes prezygotic reproductive isolation in African weakly electric fishes. Our behavioural experiments using live males as well as EOD playback demonstrated that female mate recognition is influenced by EOD signals and that females are attracted to EOD characteristics of conspecific males. The dual function of the EOD for both foraging and social communication (including mate recognition leading to assortative mating) underlines the importance of electric signal differentiation for the divergence of African weakly electric fishes. Thus, the EOD provides an intriguing mechanism promoting trophic divergence and reproductive isolation between two closely related Campylomormyrus species occurring in sympatry in the lower Congo rapids.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
(a) Bayesian phylogeny based on 1999 bp combined of the mitochondrial cytochrome b and the nuclear ribosomal S7 gene. Branch lengths are proportional to number of character changes. Bayesian support is indicated if >0.75. Representative photos and examples of EOD wave types for the three species examined are shown to the right. (b) EOD divergence among species demonstrated in a PCA using 10 EOD characteristics (§2). Different symbols refer to different species (triangle, C. rhynchophorus; circle, C. compressirostris; plus, C. tamandua).
Figure 2
Figure 2
(a) Fish–fish interactions (n=6) and (b) fish-playback interactions (n=7). Association behaviour of C. compressirostris females with conspecific and heterospecific males (a) and EODs presented alone (b; mean±s.e.). Different symbols refer to different species (triangle, C. rhynchophorus; circle, C. compressirostris; plus, C. tamandua).

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