Behavioural relevance of AC and DC in prey detection by the brown bullhead, Ameiurus nebulosus

in Animal Biology
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Abstract

A large range of aquatic vertebrates employs passive electroreception to detect the weak bioelectric fields that surround their prey. Bioelectric fields are dynamic in strength and frequency composition, but typically consist of a direct current (DC) and an alternating current (AC) component. We examined the biological relevance of these components for prey detection behaviour in the brown bullhead by means of a preference test. We gave each fish the choice between two small dipoles emitting a DC step or AC stimulus of variable strength, respectively. We used AC stimuli that were either representative for ventilatory movements by prey (1 Hz sine wave) or optimal for the ampullary electroreceptor cells (10 Hz sine wave). In an attempt to present a more complex stimulus, we also used slightly modified recordings of bioelectric prey fields, but this yielded no results. Brown bullheads prefer DC stimuli to 10 Hz sine waves if the stimulus intensity of either component is much larger. When the stimulus presentation consists of DC versus 1 Hz, most fish will choose randomly unless the stimulus intensities differ greatly. Then, they favour the component that had a higher amplitude during training. Our results suggest an intrinsic behavioural preference for very low frequency signals (<10 Hz) as well as plasticity in prey detection behaviour.

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