Independently evolved jamming avoidance responses employ identical computational algorithms: a behavioral study of the African electric fish, Gymnarchus niloticus

J Comp Physiol A. 1993 Jul;173(1):9-22. doi: 10.1007/BF00209614.


An African electric fish, Gymnarchus, and a South American electric fish, Eigenmannia, are believed to have evolved their electrosensory systems independently. Both fishes, nevertheless, gradually shift the frequency of electric organ discharge away when they encounter a neighbor of a similar discharge frequency. Computational algorithms employed by Gymnarchus for this jamming avoidance response have been identified in this study for comparison with those of extensively studied Eigenmannia. 1. Gymnarchus determines whether it should raise or lower its discharge frequency based solely upon the signal mixture of its own reafferent and the exafferent signal from a neighbor, and does not internally refer to the pacemaker command signal which drives its own discharge. 2. The signal mixture is analyzed in terms of the time courses of amplitude modulation and phase modulation at each area of the body surface. 3. Phase of the signal mixture at each area is compared with that of another area for the detection of phase modulation. 4. Unambiguous information necessary for the jamming avoidance response is extracted by integrating information from all body areas each of which yields ambiguous information. 5. These computational features are identical to those of Eigenmannia, suggesting that the neural circuit for jamming avoidance responses may have evolved from preexisting mechanisms for electrolocation in both fishes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Curare
  • Electric Fish / physiology*
  • Electric Organ / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Gallamine Triethiodide / administration & dosage
  • Gallamine Triethiodide / pharmacology
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Neurons / physiology


  • Curare
  • Gallamine Triethiodide