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Slow-motion video study shows shrews are highly sophisticated predators
Date:2/7/2008

response to water currents, the researchers equipped a small, glass-bottomed aquarium with several small water jets. They put individual water shrews into the chamber and videotaped their response as they turned different jets on and off. They found that the shrews repeatedly attacked brief, sudden water movements designed to simulate disturbances caused by escaping prey.

To test the water shrews ability to identify prey by their shape, Catania and his colleagues created fish-shaped silicon objects, mixed them with similarly sized rectangular and cylindrical pieces of silicon and put them in the aquarium with the shrews. Then they observed as the shrews generally ignored the geometric shaped objects but snapped up the fish-shaped targets after nudging them with their whiskers.

The researchers also determined that motion also triggered attacks, even when the moving targets did not have a realistic fish shape. They created moving targets by inserting a small piece of iron into pieces of silicon and used a magnet placed under the tank to make them move.

One of the difficulties in doing these experiments was that it doesnt take the shrews long to figure out that our targets are not real fish. You can only fool them a few times, Catania reports.


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Contact: David F. Salisbury
david.salisbury@vanderbilt.edu
615-343-6803
Vanderbilt University
Source:Eurekalert

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