With more than 250,000 taste buds on also the the smallest catfish, these video game fish have the right to rightly be referred to as "swimming tongues." but that"s simply the pointer of the sensory iceberg as soon as it pertains to catfish.

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To most folks, catfish don"t inspire much admiration. They"re great on a dinner plate v a side of hushpuppies, because that sure. And also no one could dispute the truth that they"re amongst the fightingest fish in new water. But there"s yes, really nothing special around a catfish, right?

Well, guess: v again, friend. Catfish are among the many extraordinary animals on earth. More than 2,200 varieties swim the waters that the people (about 8 percent of the total variety of fishes). They"re uncovered on every continent other than Antarctica and comprise what countless fish scientists take into consideration the most diverse group that fishes on earth.


Perhaps the many amazing thing around catfish is your astounding sensory abilities. No fish have actually more finely honed senses the taste, touch, smell and hearing to save them with splash to their environment. In fact, the sensory capability of catfish are prefer something the end of Ripley"s think It or Not.


TASTEA catfish simply 6 inches lengthy has an ext than a quarter-million taste buds on that is body. ~ above a gigantic blue cat or flathead . . . Well, that knows? No one wants to count.

The mouth and also gill rakers are packed through taste buds, and the sensory organs covering the exterior of the catfish too - the whiskers, fins, back, belly, sides and even the tail. If you were a catfish, you could taste a slice of pizza simply by sit on it.


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"Catfish room swimming tongues," claims Dr. Man Caprio of Louisiana State University. "You can"t touch any type of place ~ above a catfish without poignant thousands the taste buds. To use an analogy, it"s as if the pointer of her tongue flourished out and covered her body."


Caprio, a neurophysiologist, has studied what fish taste and smell because 1971. His research has given him extraordinary insights right into catfish feeding behavior, insights the can help you know what provides catfish bite.

SMELL "The catfish"s sense of smell is equally keen," claims Caprio. "Catfish deserve to smell part compounds in ~ one component to 10 billion components of water."

Water flows over folds of very sensitive organization inside the catfish"s nostrils, enabling the fish come detect specific substances in its environment. The number of these folds seems pertained to sharpness that smell. Channel cats have an ext than 140. Rainbow trout have actually only 18, and largemouth bass have just eight come 13.

Many catfish anglers think smelly baits are ideal for catfish, but Caprio problems this.

"Most anglers think horrible-smelling baits work-related best," he notes. "But that"s crazy. What stinks to you doesn"t stink come fish. You"re smelling chemistry volatilized come the air, but pets living in water can"t detect them. They detect chemistry compounds in the water. What you"re smelling, fish can"t smell."

HEARINGWith no clearly shows ears, it can seem the catfish can"t listen well, however that"s no true. A catfish"s body is the same thickness as water, so that doesn"t need outside ears. Sound waves traveling through water go appropriate through a catfish as well. As soon as sound waves hit the fish"s swim bladder, the bladder start vibrating. This amplifies sound waves, which then take trip to small bones (otoliths) in the inside ear. The otoliths begin vibrating, too, and also as they vibrate, castle bend tiny hairlike projections ~ above the cell beneath them. Nerves in this cells bring a sound message to the brain.

The swim bladder on many fish is independent of the inner ear, however in catfish, a collection of skeleton connects the swim bladder and inner ear. Fish without these bone relationships (e.g., bass and also trout) deserve to detect sounds from about 20 come 1,000 cycles every second. The listening of catfish, however, is much more acute. They deserve to hear sounds of much greater frequency, increase to around 13,000 cycles per second.

Low-frequency sound undetectable by the catfish"s inner ear are picked increase by the lateral line, a collection of small pores follow me the fish"s sides. Inside the pores room cells with hairlike projections. This projections bend in an answer to water displacements, hence stimulating nerve endings that signal the brain. The catfish offers this system to locate adjacent prey, potential enemies and also other catfish. Creatures scurrying throughout the bottom, flopping at the surface, swimming through the water or walking along a riverbank all create low-frequency vibrations the lateral line detects.

"This "vibrational" sense is really well emerged in catfish," Caprio notes. "The Chinese have used catfish because that centuries to warn of earthquakes. Catfish have the right to detect work in development a most earthquakes since they have an ultra-sensitivity to short frequency vibrations."

TOUCH and SIGHTCatfish additionally have wonderful senses the touch and sight. "Channel catfish, in particular, have good eyesight," states Caprio. "The eye that the channel catfish is supplied in numerous medical centers for study in vision."

Caprio points out that channel cat in clean water - and also other varieties as well - often will strike fishing lures through no sensory cues various other than sight triggering the action. They view something the looks like prey, and they attack.

The lack of scales heightens the catfish"s sense of touch as well. Your smooth skin is very sensitive, and also the brush of wiry fishing line or miscellaneous else the end of place in their atmosphere may send castle scurrying.

ELECTRORECEPTIONMost particularly of all, perhaps, is a sense dubbed electroreception. Catfish don"t have to see food or odor it or taste it. Tiny clusters of one-of-a-kind cells ~ above the head and along the lateral heat detect electric fields in life organisms. A catfish can find its prey with electroreception, just like sharks.

"A catfish has electroreceptors almost everywhere its head," claims Caprio. "These small pores walk to electrical sensory receptors. They work because every living cabinet is a battery. That is, if friend stick one electrode within a cell and outside a cell, you gain some sort of reading just as if you were measuring a battery through a voltmeter. For this reason catfish use the electric sense to aid them discover food. It"s a close sense; they need to be within centimeters of the object. Catfish have the right to dig in the mud and find insect larvae, worms and also such by making use of their electrical sense alone."

ANATOMY the THE BITEAll the senses connect when a catfish looks for something to eat. The sensory guts detect chemicals, vibrations and/or electrical charges native potential food items and also send messages to the fish"s mind telling

it to uncover the food. Then, when the cat choose up the food, taste buds in the mouth relay message to another component of the brain and tell it to eat the food - or spit the out.

"All the catfish"s senses room used," claims Caprio. "It"s choose going come a restaurant. Friend walk in. It looks and also smells good, so girlfriend order a steak. The waiter brings it top top a spanned platter; it smells great. Friend really want this steak, however when the waiter elevator the top, the steak is blue. Now you don"t desire it.

"You see, numerous sensory cues regulate your feeding behavior. The exact same thing with fish. A catfish doesn"t simply search v its nose or taste sprout or eyes. It provides every sensory cue available before deciding to eat."

SENSORY TURNOFFSIf a catfish tastes or smells specific compounds in the water or on her bait, feeding tasks may cease. This compounds include such things as gasoline and certain ingredients in sunscreen, tobacco, insect repellent and other items commonly used by fishermen. You"ll catch more cats if girlfriend avoid contact with such products as much as possible.

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Vision, however, is the feeling most most likely to cause fright in a catfish, Caprio says.

"If a bird flies overhead, or who casts a shadow the moves across the water, every feeding might cease," that says. "We have fouled up lab experiments because that weeks just by having actually someone put their hand over the height of a tank. If girlfriend tape the silhouette the a bird predator to the peak of a fish"s tank, the cat won"t come out to eat, no matter exactly how hungry that gets. The fish will certainly die before he walk out and gets food ideal in former of it, unless you rotate the lights off; climate he"ll come out and also get it. That"s one reason plenty of catfishermen are more successful when fishing in ~ night."