Prey-capture behavior in gymnotid electric fish: motion analysis and effects of water conductivity.
Weakly electric fish of the families Gymnotidae and Hypopomidae (Gymnotiformes) are able to locate the electric discharges from conspecifics or from dipole electrodes, and they demonstrate this by making rapid, well-directed approaches toward these electrical sources. A video tracking system was used to follow the movements of electric fish in a large tank and an analytic method was used for computing the direction and magnitude of the electric field anywhere within the cylindrical test tank. Using a static analysis method, we describe the posture of test fish relative to the electric fields during their approaches to stationary or moving electrical stimuli. Using a dynamic analysis, we examine the movements of the fish including the sign and magnitude of velocity and bending in response to electric fields. Electric fish seek to maintain a zero error angle between their body orientation and the local electric field. They do so by bending their body in the direction of the local electric field. The response has a delay of approximately 0.5 s. Swimming in reverse inverts the direction of the bend. These fish also use 'V-turns' to redirect their swim directions when encountering rapidly-changing electric fields.