Hydrodynamic stimuli and the fish lateral line

Article metrics


Sensory systems need to distinguish biologically relevant stimuli from background noise. Here we investigate how the lateral-line mechanosensory system of the fish senses minute water motions1 in the vicinity while exposed to running water. We find that one class of receptor in the lateral line, the canal neuromasts, can respond to hydrodynamic stimuli even in the presence of unidirectional water flow, whereas superficial neuromasts, which predominate in still-water fish, cannot.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: The effect of unidirectional water flow on the responses of primary lateral-line afferents to a stationary vibrating sphere (diameter 10 mm).


  1. 1

    Bleckmann, H. Progress in Zoology Vol. 41 (ed. Rathmayer, W.) 1– 115 (Fischer, Stuttgart, 1994).

  2. 2

    Northcutt, R. G. in The Mechanosensory Lateral Line: Neurobiology and Evolution (eds Coombs, S., Görner, P. & Münz, H.) 17– 78 (Springer, New York, 1989).

  3. 3

    Kroese, A. B. A. & Schellart, N. A. M. J. Neurophysiol. 68, 2212–2221 (1992).

  4. 4

    Denton, E. J. & Gray, J. A. B. in The Mechanosensory Lateral Line: Neurobiology and Evolution (eds Coombs, S., Görner, P. & Münz, H.) 229–246 (Springer, New York, 1989).

  5. 5

    Hanke, W., Brücker, C. & Bleckmann, H. J. Exp. Biol. 203, 1193– 1200 (2000).

  6. 6

    Jakubowski, M. Acta Biol. Cracov. Ser. Zool. 10, 69– 81 (1967).

  7. 7

    Bleckmann, H. & Münz, H. Brain Behav. Evol. 35, 240–250 (1990).

  8. 8

    Dijkgraaf, S. Biol. Rev. 38, 51–106 ( 1963).

  9. 9

    Marshall, N. B. Explorations in the Life of Fishes (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1971)

  10. 10

    Montgomery, J. C., Baker, C. F. & Carton, A. G. Nature 389, 960– 963 (1997).

  11. 11

    Batschelet, E. Circular Statistics in Biology (Academic, London, 1981 ).

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to H. Bleckmann.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.