Eyeless Mexican Cavefish Still Finds Its Way Around

Sunday, 06 Apr 2014 09:21 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The Mexican blind cavefish navigates and measures distances by puckering its mouth and suctioning water to emit sound waves, The Times of Israel reported.

Tel Aviv University researchers discovered that the eyeless fish formally known as Astyanax fasciatus utilizes high frequency suction waves to find its way. Their study results were published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Like many fish, to sense movement in close proximity, Astyanax fasciatus has receptive organs sensitive to changes in water pressure on its skin. The Mexican blind cavefish has the additional capacity to purposefully detect non-moving obstacles using this organ found along the sides of its body. The closer the fish comes to non-moving obstacles, the more suction action can be observed.

The team, including Roi Holzman, Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Gregory Zilman, described the method as similar to echolocation, which is how bats and dolphins, among other animals, judge how far away from objects they are. The Mexican blind cavefish also emit sound waves, though unlike bats and dolphins they do not calculate the time it takes sound to bounce back, instead the fish measure water pressure changes on their skin.

Chances are good that other fish also employ the same mechanism for navigation, Holzman told  Live Science.

"It's a mechanism made out of ancient material, and it just makes sense that other fish would have it," Holzman said. ”We haven't tested it yet, but I'd really like to."

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