Elephant fish expand their field of vision by sharing it with each other

About the name of the elephant fish (Janathonimus Pietersi) It hasn't been thought about for a long time. It is a fish with a trunk-like lower jaw. The stunning appearance is not the only thing that distinguishes this fish that lives in mysterious African rivers, ponds and swamps. Elephant fishes have an electrical organ that allows them to emit and sense weak electrical currents. Fish use this skill to orient themselves, locate prey, and communicate with others of their species. It's an electric version of echolocation that bats and dolphins use to find each other, their path, and their food.

Scientists are now writing in the journal nature They suspected that elephant fish could share their perceptual abilities with others of their kind, to improve their view of the environment, much like radar networks and sonar systems. Using signals from specific species, elephant fish can perceive distant objects in greater detail than if they were exploring their environment alone.

The researchers first developed a computer model with which they could simulate the fish's environment. They analyzed whether individual fish could detect objects better by picking up signals emitted by nearby fish. The signals are like electrical photographs of the environment that fish send to neighboring fish at the speed of light. The simulation suggests that three fish in a group receive three different electrical images of the same scene at the same time.

Then the scientists studied the fish's brains. They found that the area responsible for recording and processing electrical signals responds to both its own electrical discharges and external electrical signals from other fish or imitations of signals generated in the laboratory.

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Behavioral observations provided further evidence for the idea that fish share each other's observations. In the aquarium, the fish have adopted precise configurations relative to each other that the computer model shows are most suitable for group observation. The fish also take turns producing electrical signals, which may indicate dialogue.

Megan Vasquez

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