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They gotta have it.

Researchers studying the physiological mechanisms behind taste and smell in fish have netted an unanticipated catch: a simple compound that gives catfish an uncontrollable urge to bite.

The scientists say anglers might apply the substance -- whimsically named "Gotta Bite" -- to lures to make gamefish all but leap into the boat. They also predict that fish farmers could use the appetite-stimulating chemical to grow bigger fish in less time.

Gotta Bite's discoverers -- physiologist John Caprio of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and Slovenian animal behaviorist Tine Valentincic -- were examing how catfish sense amino acids when they stumbled upon their serendipitous finding. In the December CHEMICAL SENSES, they report that catfish taste but do not smell Gotta Bite, which is a blend of several amino acids, the building blocks that combine to form proteins.

In 1977, Caprio discovered that catfish, unlike most fish, do not taste the same amino acids they smell, or smell the same amino acids they taste (SN: 5/21/77, p.332).

Taste researchers study catfish because these animals have an exquisite sense of taste. "Catfish are basically swimming tongues," says Caprio, "so they are ideal models for our research."

But even though catfish usually respond heartily to good tastes, Caprio says he and Valentincic were shocked by the fish's initial response to Gotta Bite. At low concentrations of the substance, the fish began a series of rapid turns, as if searching for the source of the yummy flavor. As the concentration of Gotta Bite increased, the fish flew into a feeding frenzy -- champing at the water, gobbling up and spitting out small rocks, and snapping at the glass walls of the aquarium.

Louisiana State University has applied for patents for using Gotta Bite to coast fishing lures and as a diet supplement for farmed fish. Caprio cautions that he and Valentincic have not yet tested the substance outside the laboratory. However, he says, "if it works in the field half as good as it works in the lab, it's going to be something."
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Title Annotation:product to lure catfish
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 11, 1992
Words:337
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