A new method for the simulation of electric fields, generated by electric fish, and their distorsions by objects

Biol Cybern. 1983;47(1):51-8. doi: 10.1007/BF00340069.


Among the many species of fishes endowed with electric organs Mormyriformes and Gymnotoidei are known to emit and receive electric signals for the purposes of intraspecific communication and recognition of objects. Models which have been proposed for this electro-sensory system generally assume steady-state conditions. On the other hand, the very character of the signals itself and the idea that the cerebellum might be working as a clock point to the importance of the signal dynamics. Therefore a new approach to the simulation of electric fields is described in the paper. The basic idea is to superpose the fields of point charges in a way that the sum is in accordance with the fish's electric field. The same technique could be used to simulate the influence of objects on the electric field. Following a suggestion of Dr. E. Kasper I used a simpler but equal effective approach for object simulation consisting in the use of a dipole instead of point charges. The model described is easily applied to diverse situations and allows one to estimate the influence of various parameters (size, shape, and position) on the "electric image" of an object. Furthermore, the well-known behaviour of tailbending and its consequences in object recognition can be simulated. The results underline the importance of signal dynamics for species with pulse-type discharges.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electric Organ / physiology*
  • Fishes
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Neurological*