Static electric field detection and behavioural avoidance in cockroaches

Newland, Phillip L., Hunt, Edmund, Sharkh, Suleiman M., Hama, Noriyuki, Takahata, Masakazu and Jackson, Christopher W. (2008) Static electric field detection and behavioural avoidance in cockroaches Journal of Experimental Biology, 211, (23), pp. 3682-3690. (doi:10.1242/jeb.019901).


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Electric fields are pervasively present in the environment and occur both as a result of man-made activities and through natural occurrence. We have analysed the behaviour of cockroaches to static electric fields and determined the physiological mechanisms that underlie their behavioural responses. The behaviour of animals in response to electric fields was tested using a Y-choice chamber with an electric field generated in one arm of the chamber. Locomotory behaviour and avoidance were affected by the magnitude of the electric fields with up to 85% of individuals avoiding the charged arm when the static electric field at the entrance to the arm was above 8–10kVm–1. Electric fields were found to cause a deflection of the antennae but when the antennae were surgically ablated, the ability of cockroaches to avoid electric fields was abolished. Fixation of various joints of the antennae indicated that hair plate sensory receptors at the base of the scape were primarily responsible for the detection of electric fields, and when antennal movements about the head–scape joint were prevented cockroaches failed to avoid electric fields. To overcome the technical problem of not being able to carry out electrophysiological analysis in the presence of electric fields, we developed a procedure using magnetic fields combined with the application of iron particles to the antennae to deflect the antennae and analyse the role of thoracic interneurones in signalling this deflection. The avoidance of electric fields in the context of high voltage power lines is discussed.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1242/jeb.019901
ISSNs: 0022-0949 (print)
Keywords: electric fields, high voltage, sensory, mechanoreception, behaviour, cockroach
ePrint ID: 73640
Date :
Date Event
1 December 2008Published
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2010
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2017 20:50
Further Information:Google Scholar

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