E.O. Wilson – Electric Fish

music
ambience: Electric fish sounds

Electric fish use their galvanizing power to communicate with each other and to track and kill their prey. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. In the background we’re listening to signals generated under water by electric fish. Using organs near the surface of their skin, these fish can generate up to 600 volts of electricity — enough to light up a neon bulb. E.O.Wilson is a professor of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

“The galvanic world of electric fishes, is a world that is beyond ordinary human understanding or perception, because it does indeed use electric current. The world of the electric fishes was really worked out only in the 1960’s in any detail. Our experience – up to the time that the electric fishes were studied scientifically – with electric fishes, was the shock you got if you grabbed a hold of one in the fresh water say, of the Amazon, where they occur. Now we know that these fish are constantly producing an electric field, and they have special electric receptors which detect changes in the electric field, and those changes allow them to spot and track prey in very murky waters. It also allows the fish to communicate with others of its own species, to find out whether another electric fish swimming through the murk is the same species, or different species. If it’s the same species, what sex it is, and then the individuals can communicate, as for example, they can pass mating signals back and forth, or warning signals.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

E.O. Wilson - Electric Fish

A surprising explanation on how a unique kind of fish communicates and captures their prey.
Air Date:11/30/2009
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: Electric fish sounds

Electric fish use their galvanizing power to communicate with each other and to track and kill their prey. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. In the background we're listening to signals generated under water by electric fish. Using organs near the surface of their skin, these fish can generate up to 600 volts of electricity -- enough to light up a neon bulb. E.O.Wilson is a professor of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

"The galvanic world of electric fishes, is a world that is beyond ordinary human understanding or perception, because it does indeed use electric current. The world of the electric fishes was really worked out only in the 1960's in any detail. Our experience - up to the time that the electric fishes were studied scientifically - with electric fishes, was the shock you got if you grabbed a hold of one in the fresh water say, of the Amazon, where they occur. Now we know that these fish are constantly producing an electric field, and they have special electric receptors which detect changes in the electric field, and those changes allow them to spot and track prey in very murky waters. It also allows the fish to communicate with others of its own species, to find out whether another electric fish swimming through the murk is the same species, or different species. If it's the same species, what sex it is, and then the individuals can communicate, as for example, they can pass mating signals back and forth, or warning signals."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music