The communication signals of electric fish can be dynamic, varying between the sexes on a circadian rhythm and in response to social and environmental cues. In the gymnotiform fish Brachyhypopomus gauderio waveform shape of the electric organ discharge (EOD) is regulated by steroid and peptide hormones. Furthermore, EOD amplitude and duration change on different timescales and in response to different social stimuli, suggesting that they are regulated by different mechanisms. Little is known about how androgen and peptide hormone systems interact to regulate signal waveform. We investigated the relationship between the androgens testosterone (T) and 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT), the melanocortin peptide hormone α-MSH, and their roles in regulating EOD waveform of male B. gauderio. Males were implanted with androgen (T, 11-KT, or blank), and injected with α-MSH before and at the peak of androgen effect. We compared the effects of androgen implants and social interactions by giving males a size-matched male stimulus with which they could interact electrically. Social stimuli and both androgens increased EOD duration, but only social stimuli and 11-KT elevated amplitude. However, no androgen enhanced EOD amplitude to the extent of a social stimulus, suggesting that a yet unidentified hormonal pathway regulates this signal parameter. Additionally, both androgens increased response of EOD duration to α-MSH, but only 11-KT increased response of EOD amplitude to α-MSH. Social stimuli had no effect on EOD response to α-MSH. The finding that EOD amplitude is preferentially regulated by 11-KT in B. gauderio may provide the basis for independent control of amplitude and duration.
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