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PLoS Comput Biol. 2007 Jun;3(6):e113.

From morphology to neural information: the electric sense of the skate.

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Department of Physics, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America.


Morphology typically enhances the fidelity of sensory systems. Sharks, skates, and rays have a well-developed electrosense that presents strikingly unique morphologies. Here, we model the dynamics of the peripheral electrosensory system of the skate, a dorsally flattened batoid, moving near an electric dipole source (e.g., a prey organism). We compute the coincident electric signals that develop across an array of the skate's electrosensors, using electrodynamics married to precise morphological measurements of sensor location, infrastructure, and vector projection. Our results demonstrate that skate morphology enhances electrosensory information. Not only could the skate locate prey using a simple population vector algorithm, but its morphology also specifically leads to quick shifts in firing rates that are well-suited to the demonstrated bandwidth of the electrosensory system. Finally, we propose electrophysiology trials to test the modeling scheme.

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