Sensing absolute depth using hydrostatic pressure — ASN Events

Sensing absolute depth using hydrostatic pressure (#12)

Victoria A Davis 1 , Robert I Holbrook 2 , Tim Guilford 1 , Theresa Burt de Perera 1
  1. Oxford University, Oxford, STATE..., United Kingdom
  2. Faculty of Engineering, School of Computing, Leeds, United Kingdom

A fish navigating between two points in space is required to orient in three dimensions, unlike surface-bound animals that only need to deal with two. A sense of depth would therefore be extremely useful for fish to localize position, for example, when navigating to feeding grounds at a specific vertical position in the water column. Hydrostatic pressure represents a global, reliable, quantifiable cue in the vertical axis that could be used to inform depth. From a theoretical perspective, we have shown that fish could use their swim bladder to infer depth by detecting changes in hydrostatic pressure during ascent and descent, however, this has never been tested empirically. Here we use the Mexican Banded Tetra (Astyanax fasciatus) to test whether fish are indeed able to sense depth by using hydrostatic pressure alone. Using an operant learning paradigm, we trained A. fasciatus to associate a specific depth with a food reward. By changing a known quantity of water during testing we could predict the shift in vertical position in which the fish searches for food and hence test whether A. fasciatus can use hydrostatic pressure alone to ascertain depth.

  1. Taylor, G.K., Holbrook, R.I. and Burt de Perera, T. 2010. Fractional rate of change of swim-bladder volume is reliably related to absolute depth during vertical displacements in teleost fish. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 7, 1379-1382.
  2. Holbrook, R. and Burt de Perera, T. 2011. Fish navigation in the vertical dimension: can fish use hydrostatic pressure to determine depth? Fish and Fisheries, 12, 370-379.
  3. Davis,V. Holbrook, R, Schumacher, S and Burt de Perera, T. 2014. Three-dimensional spatial cognition in a benthic fish, Corydoras aeneus. Behavioural Processes, 109, 151-156.
  4. Holbrook, R. and Burt de Perera, T. 2011. Three-dimensional spatial cognition: Information in the vertical dimension overrides information from the horizontal. Animal Cognition, 14, 613-619.