Kenneth C. Catania

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Kenneth C. Catania
Alma materUniversity of Maryland, College Park, University of California, San Diego
AwardsMacArthur Fellowship, C. J. Herrick Award, NSF Career
Scientific career
InstitutionsVanderbilt University
Doctoral advisorGlenn Northcutt

Kenneth C. Catania (born 1965) is a biologist and neuroscientist teaching and conducting research at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. As an undergraduate, Catania worked as a research assistant at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. while attending the University of Maryland, College Park. In 1989, he received a BS in zoology from the University of Maryland. He received a Masters Degree (1992) and Ph.D. (1994) in neurosciences from the University of California, San Diego, working with Glenn Northcutt. He did his post-doctoral work with Jon Kaas at Vanderbilt University before joining the Vanderbilt Biological Sciences faculty in 2000 where he is currently a Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences.[1]

He studies animal sensory systems, brain organization, and behavior in diverse species including star-nosed moles,[2] water shrews,[3] naked mole-rats,[4] alligators and crocodiles,[5] snakes,[6] earthworms,[7] and electric eels.[8] His studies often focus on predators that have evolved special senses and weapons to find and overcome elusive prey and he is considered an expert in extreme animal behaviors.[9] He studies specialized species because they can reveal general principles about brain organization and sensory systems. But he also believes "there is unappreciated beauty and elegance in the behaviors and diverse forms of these extraordinary animals".[10]

Catania was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2006[11] and in 2013 he received the Pradel Research Award in Neurosciences from the National Academy of Sciences for "highly imaginative investigations of the neural basis of sensory behavior in model organisms" and "discoveries of fundamental principles of behavior, sensory processing, and brain organization".[12]

In addition to his scientific publications, his work has also been featured in magazines such as Scientific American, Natural History Magazine, and The Scientist. His discovery of a "mechanism similar to a taser" in an electric eel by absorbing the shock through his fingertips was widely covered in the popular press.[13]

Notable awards[edit]

2014 Guggenheim Fellowship

2013 Pradel Award in Neuroscience, National Academy of Sciences

2006 MacArthur Award

2005 C. J. Herrick Award in Neuroanatomy

2003 National Science Foundation Career Award

2001 Searle Scholar Award

1998 Capranica Foundation Award in Neuroethology


  1. ^ Catania, Kenneth (January 2017). "Kenneth Catania". Current Biology. 27 (1): R4–R6. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2016.11.053.
  2. ^ Catania, Kenneth C. (2011). "The sense of touch in the star-nosed mole: from mechanoreceptors to the brain". Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences. 366 (1581): 3016–3025. doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0128. JSTOR 23035676. PMC 3172592.
  3. ^ Catania, Kenneth C.; Hare, James F.; Campbell, Kevin L. (2008). "Water Shrews Detect Movement, Shape, and Smell to Find Prey Underwater". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 105 (2): 571–576. doi:10.1073/pnas.0709534104. JSTOR 25451131. PMC 2206577.
  4. ^ Catania, Kenneth C.; Remple, Michael S. (2002). "Somatosensory Cortex Dominated by the Representation of Teeth in the Naked Mole-Rat Brain". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 99 (8): 5692–5697. doi:10.1073/pnas.072097999. JSTOR 3058556. PMC 122833.
  5. ^ Leitch, Duncan B.; Catania, Kenneth C. (2012). "Structure, innervation and response properties of integumentary sensory organs in crocodilians". Journal of Experimental Biology. 215 (23): 4217–4230. doi:10.1242/jeb.076836.
  6. ^ Catania, Kenneth C. (2012). "Evolution of brains and behavior for optimal foraging: A tale of two predators". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 109 (Supp. 1): 10701–10708. doi:10.1073/pnas.1201885109. JSTOR 41601658.
  7. ^ Catania, Kenneth C. (2008). "Worm Grunting, Fiddling, and Charming—Humans Unknowingly Mimic a Predator to Harvest Bait". PLoS One. 3 (10): e3472. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0003472.
  8. ^ Catania, Kenneth (2014). "The shocking predatory strike of the electric eel". Science. 346 (6214): 1231–1234. doi:10.1126/science.1260807.
  9. ^ Franz, Julia. "The Star-Nosed Mole Takes Adaptation To The Extreme". Science Friday. Science Friday Initiative. Retrieved 2017-10-17.
  10. ^ "Kenneth Catania". Guggenheim Fellowship. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
  11. ^ Latt, Elizabeth (2006-09-18). "Vanderbilt neuroscientist Ken Catania receives MacArthur "genius grant"". Retrieved 2007-11-25.
  12. ^ "Pradel Research Award". National Academy of Sciences. National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A.
  13. ^ "Electric Eels Use Built-In "Taser" to Remotely Stun Their Prey". 2014-12-04. Retrieved 2016-02-17.