In the presence of a novel stimulus such as an aluminum or a plastic rod mormyrid fish (Marcusenius cyprinoides and Gnathonemus petersii) exhibit characteristic motor probing acts (PMAs): 'chin probing', 'radial' and 'lateral va-et-vient', 'lateral probing', 'tangential probing', and 'stationary probing'. During the display of these PMAs the fish maintain characteristic probing distances from the object which were 4.5 cm for the metal and 2.5-3.7 cm for the plastic stimulus. G. petersii with their electric organ rendered inoperative ('silent fish') no longer exhibited 'radial' and 'lateral va-et-vient'. Regardless of the nature of the stimulus the probing distances were shorter in 'silent' fish and ranged from 1.8 to 2.6 cm. During the display of PMAs intact fish changed their variable electric organ discharge rate to a unique and stable, regularized rate, with the interdischarge interval maintained at 28-30 ms. The fish's electric and non-electric (motor) probing behavior in the presence of novel objects (and following their removal during phantom PMAs) is discussed in light of theories on exploratory behavior. © 1984.
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