Journal of comparative physiology

, Volume 103, Issue 1, pp 97–121 | Cite as

Comparison of the jamming avoidance responses in Gymnotoid and Gymnarchid electric fish: A case of convergent evolution of behavior and its sensory basis

  • Theodore H. Bullock
  • Konstantin Behrend
  • Walter Heiligenberg


  1. 1.

    A behavioral response conforming to defining features of the jamming avoidance response (JAR) previously reported inEigenmannia andApteronotus of the Cypriniformes is found inGymnarchus of the Mormyriformes.

  2. 2.

    Other parallel specializations of these groups are noted, of which the most relevant is the character of the electric organ discharge (EOD); it is quasisinusoidal, high in repetition rate and highly regular in each of the genera. The same features are found inSternopygus but it lacks a JAR.

  3. 3.

    The EOD is compared inGymnarchus, Eigenmannia, Apteronotus andSternopygus, in respect to power spectrum and regularity.

  4. 4.

    Other special features of the EOD inGymnarchus are described, including “singing” and a miniature EOD of a different frequency from the main EOD.

  5. 5.

    The JAR inGymnarchus, compared toEigenmannia andApteronotus is longer in latency, slower in reaching plateau, smaller in maximum frequency shift and best excited by a stimulus frequency closer to its own. The voltage gradient threshold (≪2.5μV/cm) is higher and the dynamic range smaller. Some correlations with habit of life are suggested.

  6. 6.

    Two types of electroreceptors seem particularly relevant to the JAR. They are similar to the T and P units already reported inEigenmannia but substantial differences require separate designations; we call them Type S and Type O units.

  7. 7.

    Type S units are like T units but spontaneous at high rates and phase coding over a limited intensity range near threshold. Over a wide range of intensity, including much of the physiological range normally encountered the S unit cannot encode intensity.

  8. 8.

    Type O units are like P units but usefully coding in a narrow intensity range; they are often unable to reach 1∶1 following. The threshold is usually about 20 db higher than in S units.

  9. 9.

    The filter properties of both types are those of a bandpass filter. Whereas the O units are sharply tuned to the EOD frequency, the S units have a flat passband over a range of about 150 Hz, and sharp cutoffs (about 50 db/octave) on both the high and low frequency sides.



Bandpass Filter Intensity Range Stimulus Frequency Convergent Evolution Electric Organ Discharge 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore H. Bullock
    • 1
  • Konstantin Behrend
    • 1
  • Walter Heiligenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Neurobiology Unit, Soripps Institution of Oceanography and Department of Neurosciences, School of MedicineUniversity of CaliforniaSan Diego, La JollaUSA

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