Electroreception in the bottlenose dolphin

Electroreception, the ability to perceive electrical fields underwater, is a characteristics of for example sharks and rays. In 2012, it was however shown that a Guiana dolphin, a toothed whale, can also perceive electric fields with the hairless vibrissal follicles on its rostrum (Czech-Damal et al. 2012). The Guiana dolphin might use this ability to sense prey in the sediment. The bottlenose dolphin is also looking for prey in the sediment. During the so-called “crater feeding”, the animal digs its head into the sand. Being electrosensitive would allow the dolphin to perceive the electric fields generated by fish to localize the fish over short distances.

The video shows a single trial of a study in which the ability of bottlenose dolphins to perceive electrical fields is examined. The female dolphin Donna is swimming into the experimental apparatus and rests in a chin station. Directly above its rostrum, an electrode is placed that generates the electric stimulus. Once the dolphin perceive an electrical stimulus, it has to indicate that by leaving the apparatus.