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Evidence of a rheotactic component in the odour search behaviour of freshwater eels

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The detection of food odour by the freshwater eels, Anguilla australis and Anguilla dieffenbachii released a behavioural response to flow that resulted in direct upstream movement toward the odour source. Changes in various orientation parameters were observed as eels neared the source. Eels had substantially lower swimming velocities and considerably more variable heading and course angles close to the odour source (≤0·9 m) than further away (>0·9 m). Observed changes in orientation parameters were primarily due to changes in the behaviour of a searcher following odour loss. Cross-stream movements were initiated when the eel moved beyond the lateral margins of the odour plume. The behavioural switch from odour-conditioned rheotaxis to cross-stream casting following odour loss occurred more frequently close to the odour source where the plume was most narrow. Odour-conditioned rheotaxis enables the searcher to move quickly and efficiently toward the odour source without the need to extract directional information from a highly intermittent and complex chemical signal.
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Keywords: cross-stream casting; odour plume; odour search behaviour; odour-conditioned rheotaxis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Leigh Marine Laboratory, P. O. Box 349, Warkworth, New Zealand, 1241

Publication date: 2003-03-01

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