Tight hormonal phenotypic integration ensures honesty of the electric signal of male and female Brachyhypopomus gauderio

Horm Behav. 2011 Sep;60(4):420-6. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2011.07.009. Epub 2011 Jul 22.


Hormones mediate sexually selected traits including advertisement signals. Hormonal co-regulation links the signal to other hormonally-mediated traits such that the tighter the integration, the more reliable the signal is as a predictor of those other traits. Androgen administration increases the duration of the communication signal pulse in both sexes of the electric fish Brachyhypopomus gauderio. To determine whether the duration of the signal pulse could function as an honest indicator of androgen levels and other androgen-mediated traits, we measured the variation in sex steroids, signal pulse duration, and sexual development throughout the breeding season of B. gauderio in marshes in Uruguay. Although the sexes had different hormone titres and signal characteristics, in both sexes circulating levels of the androgens testosterone (T) and 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) were strongly related to signal pulse duration. Consequently, signal pulse duration can serve as an honest indicator of circulating androgens in males and females alike. Additionally, through phenotypic integration, signal pulse duration also predicts other sexual traits directly related to androgen production: gonad size in males and estradiol (E2) levels in females. Our findings show that tight hormonal phenotypic integration between advertisement signal and other sex steroid-mediated traits renders the advertisement signal an honest indicator of a suite of reproductive traits.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Electricity*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Female
  • Gymnotiformes / blood
  • Gymnotiformes / metabolism
  • Gymnotiformes / physiology*
  • Hormones / blood
  • Hormones / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Phenotype
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Testosterone / analogs & derivatives
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Hormones
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol
  • 11-ketotestosterone