Bratton, Bradford O. and Kramer, Bernd
Patterns of the electric organ discharge during courtship and spawning in the mormyrid fish, Pollimyrus isidori.
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 24 (6), pp. 349-368.
Pollimyrus isidori's electric organ discharge (EOD) is of the pulse type. Patterns of EOD intervals were investigated prior to, during and following spawning behaviors as related with overt behaviors, and with the sound production by the nestbuilding male. Prior to the time of reproduction, isolated and socially interacting fish (n=15) showed characteristic discharge interval patterns for resting, swimming, probing, hovering and hiding activities. Males (n=8) and females (n=6) did not differ in their mean EOD repetition rates during resting (11.6±2.5 Hz), nor Short Bursts/min (less than 20 intervals of 8–13 ms). In interacting fish Long Bursts (greater than 20 intervals of 8–13 ms, lasting for more than 300 ms) were observed only during the attack and bite sequence. A pursuing fish displayed a rapid alternation of Long Bursts with Discharge Breaks (300–1000 ms silence) during the chase behavior. Avoidance behavior which followed from several attacks was correlated with a Medium Uniform Rate (8–12 Hz) normally lasting for 20 to 60 s, or a Discharge Arrest (silence greater than 1 s) in the submissive fish. The nocturnal courtship behavior began soon after dark (1900 h). Spawning typically started 2 to 5 h after dark, continuing for 2 to 6 h until about 0200 h. During courtship and spawning the female's brief visits (15–25 s) to the male's territory recurred every 30–60 s. At all other times the female was aggressively excluded from the nest region. Courtship and spawning behaviors are described along with the electrical displays identified from 19 spawnings in three fish pairs (from a total of 37 spawnings in 4 males and 4 females). Just prior to the onset of courtship behavior, with male territorial aggression beginning to decline, females switched from a Medium Sporadic Rate pattern (resting and hiding patterns; 13 Hz) to a Medium Uniform Rate pattern (6–8 Hz) while still in their hiding area. Females continued to display this uniform rate throughout the courship and spawning period, including the courtship and spawning bouts when Discharge Breaks or Arrests also occurred. This persistance distinguishes the courtship pattern from the similar avoidance pattern (see above). The male courtship and spawning EOD pattern was similar to the female's and unique for a territorial male. He switched from a High Sporadic Rate (swimming EOD pattern; about 18 Hz) to a regularized Medium Uniform Rate (about 9 to 11 Hz) only during courtship and spawning bouts, including 1–3 EOD Breaks during Vent-to-Vent coupling (average interval: 272±71 ms, n=37). No sooner had the female left the spawning site than he resumed displaying a High Sporadic Rate. This temporal correlation of reproductive behaviors with electrical displays suggests their instrumental role in mutual acceptance of mates. Males showed their sex-specific type of EOD phase-locking, the Preferred Latency Response, only during the first few hours of entry of a fish in their tank. Two females with EOD waveform features more typical of males also spawned repeatedly; waveform does not appear to be critical. Males stopped their nocturnal sound production for the later part of courtship and the whole spawning period. Except for infrequent attacks on the female between spawning bouts, the male did not resume singing until the end of spawning when all eggs were shed (around 0200 h); from this time on the male sang until dawn. The sequencing of the three acoustic elements (moans, grunts, growls) are described. A catalogue of discharge patterns correlated with overt behaviors (Tables 1, 2), and an integrated summary time table of P. isidori's complex reproductive behavior are presented.