The electroreceptors of elasmobranchs are strongly modulated by the fish's own ventilation but this source of potential interference is suppressed within the medulla. The mechanism for the suppression is thought to be based on the common mode nature of the ventilatory noise, i.e. it is of the same amplitude and phase for all of the electroreceptors, compared with environmental electric fields which affect the receptors differentially. Evidence for the common mode suppression hypothesis is provided here in skates by the observation that the response to an artificial common mode stimulus that is independent of ventilation and delivered through an electrode inserted into the animal's gut is also suppressed by the medullary neurons; the extent to which a particular neuron suppresses the responses to the gut stimulus and to ventilation is similar. In addition, a potential modulation of 5–150μV is measured between the skate's interior and the sea water during ventilation and this appears to be responsible for the self-stimulation. By passing d.c. or sinusoidal currents through the gut electrode it is demonstrated that this ventilatory potential is due to the variable shunting of a standing d.c. potential across the fish's skin by the opening and closing of the mouth and gill slits during ventilation. Osmoregulatory ion-pumping appears to contribute to the production of the d.c. potential.

Note: Present address: Department of Biology, Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT 06457, USA.

Present address: Department of Zoology, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.

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