The detection threshold for odor plume tracking in the smooth dogfish, Mustelus canis.
Jennings, Ashley Robina
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The survival of Elasmobranch fishes (sharks, skates and rays) depends critically on their ability to sense odor cues. The outstanding question of detection thresholds to food odors in the shark is investigated in this study. The tracking behavior of Mustelus canis (the smooth dogfish) was analyzed using a binary choice flume designed specifically for testing odor preferences of aquatic animals. To determine threshold, odor was serially diluted until no tracking responses were observed. Sharks spent significantly more time in the odor side of the flume, regardless of their individual side bias, until the "squid juice" was diluted several orders of magnitude. For the whole flume the two greatest dilutions (10-4-10-5 at the odor source) did not cause significant choice and for the upstream flume half, all but the greatest dilution (10-5 at the odor source) caused significant odor side preference. To interpret these results fully we need to consider the structure of odor plumes and the function of the sharks' olfactory responses. Nonetheless, assuming that M. canis represent sharks in general, these findings demonstrate that their extraordinary sensitivity to food attractants may indicate aspects still unknown about life history of elasmobranch fishes including the ranges that benthic elasmobranchs are capable of traveling to feed.