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Word Count: 254
Nearly forty years ago I observed sharks and rays respond to weak electric fields The biological significance of this finding became evident when shortly thereafterI discovered the common bioelectric fields in the vicinity of aquatic animals The electric sense became an established fact when I proved that sharks and rays cue inon the electric fields of prey even during the dark or when the prey is hiding in the sand Field strengths as low as 1-2 nVcm suffice to alert them as to the presenceof prey Furthermore the motional electric fields of ocean streams inform sharks and rays about the flow of the water and the electric fields the animals themselvesinduce by moving through the earths magnetic field provide them with the physical basis of their magnetic compass sense shown behaviorallyThe ampullae of Lorenzini the elasmobranchs electroreceptors feature an ingenious positive feedback mechanism amplifying the weak electrical input signal prior tosynaptic transmission The system is founded on common biophysical principles applied in a unique fashion Since the electrically excitable ion channels of thereceptor cells amplify the input signal without amplifying their intrinsic noise optimal signal-to-noise ratios are achieved These new findings not only help explain theremarkable sensitivity of sharks and rays to naturally occurring electric fields but also suggest brain processing mechanisms not yet recognized Hence the electricsense of sharks and rays promises to provide new insights into the detection and processing of electrophysiological signals in animal and man Bibliographybio i a 1999 ny
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