Many animal species can detect the electric fields in their environment. Electroreception has mainly been studied in aquatic vertebrates; fish like sharks and rays, gymnotid and mormirid electric fish, the lamprey, the platypus, the coelacanth, and one mammalian species, a dolphin. We have discovered that bumblebees can detect and learn about the weak electric fields that arise when they approach a flower. This is the first example of electroreception in a non-conductive medium, aerial electroreception (AE).
The proposed research will transform our knowledge of electroreception. It will characterize novel detection mechanisms, reveal their adaptive diversity and establish their sensory ecological functions in terrestrial animals. The planned work is poised to be foundational, opening up an entire field of research into this novel, but potentially widespread, sensory modality.