Theses Doctoral

Evolution of Xenopus Vocal Patterns: Retuning a Hindbrain Circuit During Species Divergence

Barkan, Charlotte Barkan

Circuits underlying motor patterns of closely related species provide an ideal framework in which to study how evolution shapes behavioral variation. Male African clawed frogs (Xenopus and Silurana) advertisement call to attract female mates and silence male rivals. Males of each species produce a unique vocal pattern that serves as a species-identifier. Xenopus laevis is the most well-studied species in terms of its vocal behavior and underlying anatomy and physiology. The clade that includes X. laevis, or X. laevis senso lato, also includes 3 other species that diverged ~8.5 million years ago. All 4 of these species produce advertisement calls that include fast trills – trains of fast rate (~60 Hz) sound pulses. However, their calls differ substantially between species in measures of trill duration and period. I examined the premotor circuit underlying vocal patterning in three of these species: X. laevis, X. petersii, and X. victorianus. I used extracellular recordings to find that a premotor nucleus, DTAM, which is part of the vocal central pattern generator, is the likely source of species-variation of vocal patterns. Species-specific trill duration and period are intrinsic to the region of the hindbrain that includes DTAM. Next, I used blind whole-cell patch recordings in DTAM of X. laevis and X. petersii to examine the cells that encode trill duration and period. I identified homologous populations of premotor vocal cells in both species that code for trill duration and period in a species-specific manner. Together, these results support an autonomous role of the DTAM circuit for generation of species variation in call duration and period.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Neurobiology and Behavior
Thesis Advisors
Kelley, Darcy B
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 19, 2017