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Keywords:

  • elasmobranch;
  • batoid;
  • sensory;
  • mechanosensory;
  • electrosensory

Abstract

Elasmobranchs (sharks, skates, and rays) possess a variety of sensory systems including the mechanosensory lateral line and electrosensory systems, which are particularly complex with high levels of interspecific variation in batoids (skates and rays). Rays have dorsoventrally compressed, laterally expanded bodies that prevent them from seeing their mouths and more often than not, their prey. This study uses quantitative image analysis techniques to identify, quantify, and compare structural differences that may have functional consequences in the detection capabilities of three Eastern Pacific stingray species. The benthic round stingray, Urobatis halleri, pelagic stingray, Pteroplatytrygon (Dasyatis) violacea, and benthopelagic bat ray, Myliobatis californica, show significant differences in sensory morphology. Ventral lateral line canals correlate with feeding ecology and differ primarily in the proportion of pored and nonpored canals and the degree of branching complexity. Urobatis halleri shows a high proportion of nonpored canals, while P. violacea has an intermediate proportion of pored and nonpored canals with almost no secondary branching of pored canals. In contrast, M. californica has extensive and highly branched pored ventral lateral line canals that extended laterally toward the wing tips on the anterior edge of the pectoral fins. Electrosensory morphology correlates with feeding habitat and prey mobility; benthic feeders U. halleri and M. californica, have greater electrosensory pore numbers and densities than P. violacea. The percentage of the wing surface covered by these sensory systems appears to be inversely related to swimming style. These methods can be applied to a broader range of species to enable further discussion of the relationship of phylogeny, ecology, and morphology, while the results provide testable predictions of detection capabilities. J. Morphol., 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.