South American dolphins ‘use electric fields to hunt prey’Published On: Wed, Jul 27th, 2011 | Marine Biology | By BioNews
A dolphin species that lives around the east coast of South America is the first placental mammal to have the ability to sense electric fields of their prey, scientists have found.
The researchers first showed that structures on the head of Guiana dolphin (Sotalia guianensis) were probably sensory organs, then found it could detect electric fields in water, reports the BBC.
Like all of the toothed cetaceans, it hunts and locates using sound.
But the researchers have now shown that at close range, it can also sense electrical signals.
They are not as sensitive as sharks and rays, but can detect signals of the same size as those produced in water when fish move their muscles.
“It feeds in the bottom [of the sea] a lot, and it lives in water where there can be a lot of silt and mud suspended,” said project leader Wolf Hanke from the University of Rostock, Germany.
“And echolocation doesn”t work at very close range, so this is where electrolocation would come in,” he added.
The study has been published in the Royal Society”s journal Proceedings B.