Japanese Sea Catfish uses pH Sensors to Catch Prey

Japanese Sea Catfish uses pH Sensors to Catch Prey

Many animals use unique and surprising techniques to outsmart their prey. Now, researchers have found that the Japanese sea catfish, Plotosus japonicus, is equipped with special sensors to detect its food. The technique used by the cat fish to catch its food involves noticing slight changes in the pH level of water with the help of natural sensor. Without sensors, it would be almost impossible to sight a prey in the murky water for Plotosus japonicas.

The credit for discovering the strange ability of the Japanese sea catfish to catch its prey goes to John Caprio, George C. Kent Professor of Biological Sciences at LSU, and colleagues from Kagoshima University in Japan.

Caprio and his research partners have detailed their work in a paper, ‘Marine teleost locates live prey through pH sensing’, which will be published in the journal Science on Friday, June 6.

The discovery happened by chance as Caprio was originally examining the physiology of the taste system of the Japanese sea catfish at Kagoshima University in 1984 when he saw something unusual while performing electrical recordings from the fish barbells, or whiskers. He observed that response of some new sensory nerve fibers was coming at much larger amplitude than the others and was quite often.

“Immediately I knew that there was something different about those nerves, but I was working on a different project funded by the National Science Foundation and had to put my curiosities on the back burner”, he said.

Caprio traveled to Japan six times between 2005 and 2013 and stayed there for at least a month during each visit. He and his colleagues conducted various experiments that eventually helped them to reach a conclusion that the Japanese sea catfish uses pH sensors to catch it prey.


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