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Psychophysical Assessment of Catfish Electro-Sensitivity Versus Temperature and Electric Field Frequency

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

The detection threshold of the electrosensory system in catfish, Ictalurus nebulosus, was assessed psychophysically with the 'staircase method' in a two-alternative forced-choice experiment over a period of 6 months. Detection thresholds were assessed at stimulus frequencies of 0.03, 0.1, 1, 3, 10, 30, and 100 Hz at temperatures of 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25 °C. The water conductivity was kept between 0.23 and 0.27 mS/cm. The behavioural response curve has a band pass filter shape with maximum transfer at frequencies in the range from 1 to 3 Hz. The lowest value of the threshold was 0.8 μV/cm at 1 Hz, 25 °C, and 0.26 mS/cm. At lower frequencies, e.g. 0.03 Hz, the mean threshold ranged from 20 to 100 μV/cm; at 100 Hz the mean threshold ranged from 500 to 1000 μV/cm. The overall performance of the fish improved during the course of the experiment as was demonstrated by the decrease of the mean threshold at 1 Hz from 35 to 10 μV/cm. Threshold-temperature curves were incongruous with electro-physiologically made sensitivity recordings of electroreceptor organ primary afferents. At frequencies above 3 Hz temperature effects were most noticeable, mainly as an increased sensitivity. Temperature effects at frequencies less than 3 Hz were negligible. The results serve as reference values for future studies on water pollution where the electric sense serves as a biomonitor system. We conclude that such studies should be conducted at stimulus frequencies between 0.1 and 3 Hz.

Affiliations: 1: Utrecht University, Comparative Physiology, Padualaan 8, 3584 GH Utrecht-NL


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