Prey can detect predators via electroreception in air

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Predators and prey benefit from detecting sensory cues of each other’s presence. As they move through their environment, terrestrial animals accumulate electrostatic charge. Because electric charges exert forces at a distance, a prey animal could conceivably sense electrical forces to detect an approaching predator. Here, we report such a case of a terrestrial animal detecting its predators by electroreception. We show that predatory wasps are charged, thus emit electric fields, and that caterpillars respond to such fields with defensive behaviors. Furthermore, the mechanosensory setae of caterpillars are deflected by these electrostatic forces and are tuned to the wingbeat frequency of their insect predators. This ability unveils a dimension of the sensory interactions between prey and predators and is likely widespread among terrestrial animals.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2322674121
Pages (from-to)e2322674121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Volume121
Issue number23
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2024 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.

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