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Marine Biology

, Volume 158, Issue 1, pp 1–8 | Cite as

The ability of a benthic elasmobranch to discriminate between biological and artificial electric fields

  • Joel A. KimberEmail author
  • David W. Sims
  • Patricia H. Bellamy
  • Andrew B. Gill
Original Paper

Abstract

To investigate the ability of elasmobranchs to distinguish between differing prey-type electric fields we examined the electroreceptive foraging behaviour of a model species, Scyliorhinus canicula (small-spotted catshark). Catshark preferences were studied by behaviourally conditioning them to swim through narrow tunnels, and on exit presenting them simultaneously with two different electric fields. Their subsequent choices of the following paired options were recorded; (i) Two artificial electric fields (dipole electrodes) with different magnitude direct current (D.C.), (ii) Two artificial electric fields, one D.C. and the other alternating current (A.C.), of the same magnitude, and (iii) similar magnitude, natural and artificial D.C. electric fields associated with shore crabs and dipole electrodes respectively. We found a highly significant preference for the stronger D.C. electric field and a less pronounced, but still significant, preference for the A.C. electric field rather than the D.C. electric field. No preference was demonstrated between the artificial and natural D.C. electric fields. The findings are discussed in relation to the animal’s diet and ecology and with regard to anthropogenic sources of electric fields within their habitat.

Keywords

Shore Crab Marine Biological Association Acrylic Sheet Active Electrolocation Injured Prey 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank N. Bloomer for assistance with electronics, J. Rundle for animal husbandry, K. Atkins for aquaria assistance, I. Gilson at Spartech for construction of dividers, tunnels and chamber moulds, M. Hall for advice on use of agar, P. Rendle, P. Masterson, M. McHugh, J. Filer, V. Wearmouth, and the crew of RV Plymouth Quest for assistance with specimen collection, and C. Brownlee for use of electronics equipment. We also thank the anonymous reviewers and editor for their comments. JAK was supported by a Fisheries Society of the British Isles funded studentship and by Cranfield University. DWS was supported by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded Marine Biological Association (MBA) Fellowship and by the NERC Oceans 2025 Strategic Research Programme (Theme 6 Science for Sustainable Marine Resources). All experiments comply with the current law of the United Kingdom.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joel A. Kimber
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • David W. Sims
    • 2
    • 3
  • Patricia H. Bellamy
    • 1
  • Andrew B. Gill
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecosystem Function Group, Department of Natural ResourcesCranfield UniversityCranfieldUK
  2. 2.Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The LaboratoryPlymouthUK
  3. 3.Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of PlymouthPlymouthUK

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