Electrosensory thresholds in larvae of the weakly electric fish Pollimyrus isidori (Mormyridae, Teleostei) during ontogeny

The Journal of experimental biology

PubMedID: 9318552

Postner M, Kramer B. Electrosensory thresholds in larvae of the weakly electric fish Pollimyrus isidori (Mormyridae, Teleostei) during ontogeny. J Exp Biol. 1997;198(Pt 3):783-91.
Electrosensory thresholds and tuning were determined from behavioural studies in larvae of Pollimyrus isidori using the stop response of their electric organ discharge to weak electrical stimuli. Two age groups were studied: (1) 10- to 15-day-old larvae in which the electric organ discharge (EOD), produced by a distinct larval electric organ, had just stabilized; (2) 54- to 60-day-old larvae, just before the advent of the adult EOD (an adult electric organ functionally replaces that of the larva between about 60 and 80 days). Three stimulus pulse waveforms were used: (1) single-cycle, bipolar sine-wave pulses; (2) single-cycle, monopolar sine-wave pulses and (3) monopolar square-wave pulses. The younger larvae were exceedingly sensitive to weak electrical stimuli, down to the 10 µVp­p cm-1 range. Stimulus pulse duration had a significant effect on threshold for all three pulse waveforms, but the shapes of the tuning curves were quite different. Thresholds at the 'best' pulse duration were lower and the tuning sharper (with a V-shaped curve) with monopolar sine-wave pulses than with bipolar sine-wave pulses. The 'best' pulse duration was 1 ms for both sine-wave pulses, corresponding well to the spectral peak amplitude of larval EODs (964±22 Hz). The threshold curve for monopolar sine-wave pulses appeared to be perfectly adapted for sensing larval rather than adult EODs. With square-pulse stimuli, thresholds increased monotonically with duration and there was no evidence of tuning for this kind of stimulus. These results suggest that both conventional spectral tuning and 'tuning' to a particular pulse waveform (with a monopolar sine-wave pulse best approximating the waveform of a larval discharge) are found in young larvae. In the older age group, larvae were more sensitive to all three kinds of stimuli than those of the younger age group. The sensitivity increase varied from 10 dB to 29 dB; at stimuli of 2.4 µVp­p cm-1, larvae just 18 mm long displayed adult sensitivity. No tuning was seen for square-wave pulses and, as in younger larvae, their effectiveness increased monotonically with duration, so that for neither age group are square-wave pulses a good model for larval EODs. The threshold curves for both types of sine-wave pulse were similar and resembled the broadband tuning curves of Knollenorgan electroreceptors. Tuning was present but weak, with sensitivity for the high-frequency range much greater than for younger larvae. This change is adaptive for sensing both larval and adult EODs and occurred before the larvae developed an adult EOD. The mechanism for a change in tuning that has been established for electroreceptors in adult mormyrids and gymnotiforms, where the spectral properties of the EOD of a fish entrain its electroreceptors, is not found in the larvae of Pollimyrus isidori, which 'anticipate' the tuning necessary for the reception of their own, future adult EOD.