Oceanic Electric Fields: Perception by American Eels?

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Science  16 Jun 1972:
Vol. 176, Issue 4040, pp. 1233-1235
DOI: 10.1126/science.176.4040.1233


American eels, long-distance migrating fish, consistently exhibited conditioned cardiac deceleration responses to electric fields as small as 0.167 x 10-2 microampere per square centimeter in water of resistivity 4000 ohm centimeters (6.7 microvolts per centimeter) and 400 ohm centimeters (0.67 microvolt per centimeter). Fewer responses were shown at this current density (0.167 x 10-2 microampere per square centimeter) in more saline water (40 ohm centimeters, 0.067 microvolt per centimeter) and at a lower current density (0.167 x 10-3 microampere per square centimeter) in fresh water. Thus, eels have sufficient sensitivity to utilize geoelectric information for orientation.