Dolphins can detect electric fields. This discovery comes through a study published in the scientific journal Journal of Experimental Biology Last Thursday (30), after conducting an analysis of the species of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatusalso known as the bottlenose dolphin).
As the study suggests, dolphins can also use their ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic field. To do this, the animals use sensitive pores on their snouts, called vibrissae. These small holes are used to contain juvenile hairs and are very sensitive.
In the study, bottlenose dolphins were able to use it to detect very weak electric fields, as high as 2.4 and 5.5 microvolts per centimeter. But the team responsible (part of Nuremberg Zoo) point out that more research is needed to discover how animals actually use this sense in nature.
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Currently, one theory suggests that electroreceptors play a role in dolphins’ feeding: detecting them may allow the animals to find small prey hidden in the sand.
To make this discovery, the researchers trained dolphins to swim away from the bar five seconds after they sensed an electric field. If they didn’t feel anything, they had to stay in the same place for at least 12 seconds. Over the course of the study, the researchers reduced the intensity of the electric field.
Electric field detection
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In electric fields of less than 125 microvolts per centimeter, the dolphins participating in the study were able to detect signals with up to 90% accuracy. For 5.4 microvolts per second, the performance drops to 50%. The animals still detected electrical signals at 3 microvolts with about 80% accuracy, but their performance at 2 microvolts dropped to 33%.
For weaker electric fields, scientists have observed dolphins moving their snouts back and forth, as if searching for an electrical stimulus. The theory is that these movements can improve prey detection.
source: Journal of Experimental Biology
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