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How electric fish electrocommunicate on distinct behavioral contexts?

Grant number: 17/01589-9
Support type:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Doctorate (Direct)
Effective date (Start): April 15, 2017
Effective date (End): December 14, 2017
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Biophysics - Biophysics of Processes and Systems
Principal Investigator:Reynaldo Daniel Pinto
Grantee:Rafael Tuma Guariento
Supervisor abroad: Christopher B. Braun
Home Institution: Instituto de Física de São Carlos (IFSC). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Carlos , SP, Brazil
Local de pesquisa : City University of New York, New York (CUNY), United States  
Associated to the scholarship:13/09013-8 - Electrocommunication in Gymnotus carapo: a study of biological complexity through a real-time interface between computational models and living nervous systems, BP.DD


Pulse-type weakly electric fishes developed nervous systems able to communicate by producing and detecting pulsed electrical fields that propagate into water. While pulse shape is stereotyped, the pulse interval is highly variable (from tens of milliseconds to tens of seconds) and context dependent. Such electrocommunication allows a non-invasive study on how such neural signals, emergent from the activity of two whole nervous systems, are modulated during their dyadic communication. Despite the similarity of pulse shapes among conspecifics, it was possible to implement, during my Ph. D., a machine learning based methodology to discriminate pulses from two freely swimming electric fishes. We used this setup to apply tools from Information Theory and Markov Model Reconstruction to decode electrocommunication patterns during dyadic dominance contests of Gymnotus carapo, an aggressive electric fish species. Electrocommunication likely play fundamental roles during different behavioral contexts, such as courtship. There is evidence of groups of fish from the same species allopatric separated, such as opposite side affluents of a large river, being unable to cross reproduce, raising the hypothesis of a particular "electrical dialect" for each group.In this project, we propose to implement a first step to address such questions. We propose to adapt our methodology to different species, to correlate how the communication patterns vary among them, and to study how does some behavioral context is translated into electric organ patterns. It will be developed under the supervision of Prof. Christopher Braun, biologist head of the laboratory Laboratory of Comparative Sensory Performance at New York City University. His laboratory has been researching the evolution of communication of South American electric fishes for a few years in collaboration with Prof. José Alves-Gomes, a geneticist from Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, which is currently involved in a sabbatical at prof. Braun's laboratory. The possibility to directly interact with both specialists in the biology of electric fishes is a unique opportunity to develop this project. (AU)