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Effects of environment on electric field detection by small spotted catshark Scyliorhinus canicula (L.)

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This study evaluated the influence of environment (substratum type and depth) on the electroreception capabilities of small spotted catsharks Scyliorhinus canicula in response to prey-simulating electric fields. In experiments where electric fields (applied current 15 A) were presented beneath different substrata (sand, pebbles, rocks and control) it was found that search effort was not different between substrata or S. canicula sexes, however, both rates of turning and biting towards active electrodes were decreased over pebbles and rocks compared with sand and the control (no substratum). There was no significant effect of sex on turn and bite rates over any substrata. Electric fields were then presented beneath different depths of sand to examine the depth-limits of fish electroreception. Turn and bite rates were significantly lower at depths below 10 mm, with no bites towards electrodes made when they were >30 mm depth. Search effort was not found to be different between different burial depth treatments or between sexes. These results indicate substratum type and depth influences the ability of S. canicula to detect prey-simulating electric fields. This variation in electroreceptive performance may influence space use of sharks.

Keywords: elasmobranch; electroreception; foraging behaviour; habitat selection; movement; space use

Document Type: Regular Paper


Affiliations: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, U.K.

Publication date: April 1, 2008

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