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Electrophysiological distinctions between the taste and smell of amino acids in catfish

Naturevolume 266pages850851 (1977) | Download Citation



VERTEBRATES possess two principal systems, olfaction and taste, adapted to respond to peripheral chemical excitation. Olfaction in terrestrial vertebrates is the more acute chemosensory system, having lower thresholds to volatile stimuli than the gustatory thresholds to nonvolatile compounds1,2; thus, olfaction was termed the ‘distance’ sense and gustation the ‘contact’ sense. With fishes, however, chemical stimuli are present in the aqueous medium and it is difficult to distinguish between olfactory and gustatory stimuli or to explain the development of two chemical senses in the primitive aquatic vertebrates. Fishes exhibit important morphological distinctions between olfactory and gustatory systems both at the periphery and centrally3, and yet, in catfish, amino acids are the most effective stimuli known for both systems4,5. This sensory overlap does not reflect a simple duplication of receptor function, however, as the olfactory and gustatory systems of catfish differ in amino acid sensitivity, specificity and response characteristics, which could allow for the functional separation of the chemical senses in an aquatic environment.

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    Present address: Department of Zoology and Physiology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 70803


  1. Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32306



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