Sensory processing of water currents by fishes

John Montgomery, Guy Carton, Rainer Voigt, Cindy Baker, Carol Diebel

Abstract

Water currents are extremely important in the aquatic environment and play a very significant role in the lives of fishes. Sensory processing of water currents involves a number of sensory modalities including the inner ear, vision, tactile sense and the mechanosensory lateral line. The inner ear will detect whole–body accelerations generated by changes in flow, or by turbulence, whereas visual and tactile inputs will signal translational movement with respect to an external visual or tactile reference frame. The superficial neuromasts of the mechanosensory lateral line detect flow over the surface of the body and have the appropriate anatomical distribution and physiological properties to signal the strength and the direction of flow and, hence, contribute to the detection of regional differences in flow over different parts of the body.