Ecological Aspects of Electroreception

  • H. O. Schwassmann
Part of the NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (NSSA, volume 18)


Proper placement of electroreception as an ecosensory function within the array of the different sensory modalities seems difficult; however, some close relationship with vision can be established. Among the vertebrates, visual receptors and the many accessory dioptric and related structures are most highly developed in birds and fishes, but for obviously different reasons. In day-active birds, an eye of large diametre and a high ratio of retinal ganglion cells to cones throughout the retina permit a high degree of resolving power, perhaps at the cost of sensitivity, while the trend prevailing in fishes is towards maximal utilization of the little light available in most aquatic habitats. Here, correlated adaptive features are an enormous pupillary aperture, a relatively large spherical lens, and, in some deep-sea forms, a telescopic eye reminiscent of the tubular eyes of night-active owls. In certain situations, as an existence in very turbid waters, or while changing to a night-active life style, further refinement of the visual apparatus must have proved uneconomical, and other sensory systems were relied upon. Of these, electroreception became a highly effective mechanism for near-field orientation and communication in the aquatic medium.


Ecological Aspect Electric Organ Electric Organ Discharge Electric Fish Stimulus Pulse 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. O. Schwassmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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