Student Research Projects

Electrical and Olfactory Perception of the Stingray

Student Mallory Offner
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Biology


There have been several studies conducted investigating the use of electroreception in elasmobranchs, particularly concerning prey capture. However, research involving the comparison of multiple senses is lacking. The behavioral responses of the yellow-spotted stingray, Urobatis jamaicensis, to odor and electrical stimuli were compared using a variety of food sources. The stingray’s response time was recorded during four sets of trials using live prey (both odor and electric), dead prey (odor only), electrodes (electric only), and dead prey combined with electrodes (odor and electric). When response times are compared between the odor and electrode trials, the stingray exhibited a stronger response towards the odor. If the trials using both the odor and electrical stimuli are included, the stingray reacted more strongly when it could utilize both senses. From these data, it appears that the animal is capable of using either stimulus for prey finding behavior; however, further research needs to be conducted on multiple specimens to determine statistically if one stimulus is preferential over the other. There is potential for this research to have practical applications, as humans and elasmobranchs often interact, especially regarding fisheries (to attract or repel certain species) and animal husbandry in aquarium settings.


Association of Southeastern Biologists, Birmingham, AL, April '09