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J Exp Biol. 2009 Oct 1;212(19):3044-50. doi: 10.1242/jeb.028738.

Functional consequences of structural differences in stingray sensory systems. Part II: electrosensory system.

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  • 1Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California at Los Angeles, 621 Charles E. Young Drive South, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Elasmobranch fishes (sharks, skates and rays) possess highly sensitive electrosensory systems, which enable them to detect weak electric fields such as those produced by potential prey organisms. Different species have unique electrosensory pore numbers, densities and distributions. Functional differences in detection capabilities resulting from these structural differences are largely unknown. Stingrays and other batoid fishes have eyes positioned on the opposite side of the body from the mouth. Furthermore, they often feed on buried prey, which can be located non-visually using the electrosensory system. In the present study we test functional predictions based on structural differences in three stingray species (Urobatis halleri, Pteroplatytrygon violacea and Myliobatis californica) with differing electrosensory system morphology. We compare detection capabilities based upon behavioral responses to dipole electric signals (5.3-9.6 microA). Species with greater ventral pore numbers and densities were predicted to demonstrate enhanced electrosensory capabilities. Electric field intensities at orientation were similar among these species, although they differed in response type and orientation pathway. Minimum voltage gradients eliciting feeding responses were well below 1 nVcm(-1) for all species regardless of pore number and density.

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