Swimming direction of the glass catfish is responsive to magnetic stimulation

Hunt RD, Ashbaugh RC, Reimers M, Udpa L, Saldana De Jimenez G, Moore M, et al. (2021) Swimming direction of the glass catfish is responsive to magnetic stimulation. PLoS ONE 16(3): e0248141. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0248141


Several marine species have developed a magnetic perception that is essential for navigation and detection of prey and predators. One of these species is the transparent glass catfish that contains an ampullary organ dedicated to sense magnetic fields. Here we examine the behavior of the glass catfish in response to static magnetic fields which will provide valuable insight on function of this magnetic response. By utilizing state of the art animal tracking software and artificial intelligence approaches, we quantified the effects of magnetic fields on the swimming direction of glass catfish. The results demonstrate that glass catfish placed in a radial arm maze, consistently swim away from magnetic fields over 20 μT and show adaptability to changing magnetic field direction and location.


We have established that the glass catfish has unique magnetic field sensing capabilities that position it as a valuable model to study magnetoreception in animal species. The cellular mechanisms allowing this capability remains to be determined. We have already identified and cloned the EPG from glass catfish. But is this the only magnetic-sensitive protein? Does it work with other proteins to amplify and modulate its activity? Do other animal species that have been shown to be sensitive to magnetic fields have similar proteins? This animal model can provide key information to address these questions. By characterizing the behavior of glass catfish, we are now working towards developing a fish with a knock-out in the EPG gene. This will elucidate if there are additional genes associated with magnetic responses and will facilitate the development of the next generation of additional magnetic sensing molecular tools.


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