Electroreception by small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) embryos in relation to predator detection and avoidance

Jonathan Christensen*, Peter Grønkjær, Anna B. Neuheimer, Rune Kristiansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Electroreception is an intriguing sense in the animal kingdom, that confers an advantage, when other senses cannot be used. Many shark and ray species spend a prolonged embryonic life stage enclosed in an egg case, where the avoidance of predators is difficult. In this study, we found that late stages of small-spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus canicula) exhibit a freeze response that stops ventilation when exposed to electric stimuli. The embryos also showed a short-term tolerance buildup, when exposed to several electrical stimuli over a 40-min period. Surprisingly, The embryos also reacted with a freeze response when the electrical field was turned off, indicating that the embryos reacted to a change in electrical field, rather than the presence of one. Younger embryos showed a significantly longer freeze response than older embryos. This study documents the use of electroreception in small-spotted catshark embryos as a possible predator avoidance response.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology
Pages (from-to)125-135
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Elasmobranch
  • electroreception
  • embryo
  • predator avoidance
  • Scyliorhinus canicula


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