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No. 106: Jul-Aug 1996

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Ichthyometers Measure Pollution

At the Centre International de l'Eau de Nancy, French scientists are putting the South American fish Apteronotus albifrons to work. This electric fish alters its self-generated electrical pulses as its aqueous environment changes.

"Generally, when the fish is cruising around, it emits a continuous series of low-amplitude electric pulses at 1000 Hertz. But the researchers found that when the fish were exposed to certain pollutants in their holding tanks, the frequency and form of the electrical signals changed in characteristic ways that could be measured consistently. The electric fish, which are particularly responsive to potassium cyanide, phenols, and trichloroethylene, are soon expected to begin charging their way through French drinking-water treatment facilities."

(Anonymous; "Zapping through Pollution," BioScience, 46:312, 1996)

From Science Frontiers #106, JUL-AUG 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss