Electric Organ Discharges of Mormyrid Fish as a Possible Cue for Predatory Catfish
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During reproductive migration the electroreceptive African sharptooth catfish, Clarias gariepinus (Siluriformes), preys mainly on a weakly electric fish, the bulldog Marcusenius macrolepidotus (Mormyridae; Merron 1993). This is puzzling because the electric organ discharges of known Marcusenius species are pulses of a duration (<1 ms) too short for being detected by the catfishes' low-frequency electroreceptive system (optimum sensitivity, 10–30 Hz; Peters and Bretschneider 1981). On the recent discovery that M. macrolepidotus males emit discharges lasting approximately ten times longer than those of females (Kramer 1997a) we determined behavioral thresholds for discharges of both sexes, using synthetic playbacks of field-recorded discharges. C. gariepinus detected M. macrolepidotus male discharges down to a field gradient of 103 μVpeak-peak/cm and up to a distance of 1.5 m at natural field conditions. In contrast, thresholds for female discharges were not reached with our setup, and we presume the bulldogs eaten by catfish are predominantly male.
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