, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 31–38 | Cite as

Captivity affects behavioral physiology: Plasticity in signaling sexual identity

  • R. E. Landsman


Little is known about the link between captivity, physiology, and behavior in wild-caught vertebrates. Anecdotal evidence suggests that hormonal changes are responsible for behavioral changes in wild animals brought into captivity. Studying the effects of captivity on reproduction is hampered because wild animals often fail to exhibit sexual behavior under captive conditions. In weakly discharging electric fish, field studies have reported sex differences in electric organ discharges which are rarely seen in the laboratory. I now report the results of a series of laboratory investigations which show thatGnathonemus petersii exhibits seasonal, hormone-dependent, phasespecific sex differences in electric organ discharges. Captivity dramatically alters and may even reverse these sex differences as a result of rapid changes in endogenous plasma hormone levels. These findings have broad implications for research on animal physiology and behavior performed in laboratory settings.

Key words

Captivity electric organ discharge (EOD) sex differences plasma hormone levels androgens estrogen external morphology behavioral plasticity 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. E. Landsman
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Hunter CollegeCity University of New YorkNew York
  2. 2.Department of Herpetology and IchthyologyThe American Museum of Natural HistoryNew YorkUSA

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