Cyprus Mail

How sharks use electricity as a predatory ‘sixth sense’

Sharks are some of the animal kingdom’s most feared hunters, thanks to a special sixth sense… electroreception.

There are two ways animals use electroreception. They either use their own electric currents and sense how those currents bounce back to interpret their surroundings, or they pick up the electric currents already being produced by other animals to locate prey. Electroreception is most common in fish and some amphibians because salt water is a fantastic conductor of electricity – especially compared to air.

Sharks are truly some of the best at using electroreception because they’re so sensitive. In addition to their strong muscles, aerodynamic shape, and specialised fins, this sixth sense helps sharks to be the talented hunters they are. Great white sharks are so sensitive, they can detect one millionth of a volt in a centimetre of seawater… and maybe even less than that!

As a shark swims through the water, electric fields emitted by another fish travel into the pores under its head, through the tubes to the ampullae. There tiny hairs read these signals and use a network of nerves to send a message to the shark’s brain. This gives the shark exact dimensions and location of the fish, helping it catch and eat it.

View the original video here.

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