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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life Sciences

Research project: Effects of electric fields on animal behaviour

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Animals show species-specific behavioural responses to electrical fields that are dependent upon the type of electric field and species involved.

Changes in an insects behaviour occurs in response to a variety of electric field types, including charged surfaces, electric fields generated by high voltage power supplies and static electric fields produced by high voltage power lines. Insects can respond to charged surfaces by avoiding, or being repelled by the charged region (Hunt et al., 2005). Of equal importance are static electric fields of high strengths and variable voltages that occur under high voltage power supplies. We know little whether insects have an electrosensory sense, how they detect static electric fields and how that information is used to drive adaptive behaviour. We use the cockroach and the fruit fly, Drosophila, to understand how the neural basis of how insects detect electric fields. This work is being carried out in collaboration with Dr Chris Jackson (School of Biological Sciences) and Dr Suleiman Sharkh (School of Engineering Science).

Related research groups

Biomedical Sciences
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