Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


The gross structure of the ampullae of Lorenzini and its distribution on the body of 40 species of skates (Rajoidei) and 5 species of sharks (Galeomorphii) were compared in an attempt to investigate correlations within this system to feeding mechanisms. Three general lines of morphological change are observed. A larger proportion of the ampullary pores are associated with the ventral surface of the dorsoventrally flattened skates than the more conically shaped sharks. The relative proportion of ventral pores is significantly reduced on those species inhabiting aphotic waters. Secondly, the more piscivorous rajoids possess an array of ventral pores which covers the majority of the body surface whereas those species feeding predominantly on infaunal invertebrates exhibit a comparatively reduced pattern which are primarily concentrated around the mouth. The density of these pores on the adult is inversely related to the collective mobility of each species' prey items. Similarly, the relative density of pores on the sharks is reduced in both those species inhibiting pelagic waters and those exhibiting reduced prey selectivity. Lastly, the overall size of, and the number of alveoli associated with, each ampulla is directly related to the habitat depth of each skate species. The proposed effects of each of these modifications is discussed. The overall pore distribution appears compensatory for reduced visual input whereas relative densities (resolution) further reflect major differences in feeding strategies. Increased ampullary size and complexity suggest mechanisms for increased sensitivity and signal-to-noise ratios.



© The Author