The sensory basis of rheotaxis in the blind Mexican cave fish, Astyanax fasciatus
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- Baker, C. & Montgomery, J. J Comp Physiol A (1999) 184: 519. doi:10.1007/s003590050351
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The sensory basis of rheotaxis (orientation to currents) was investigated in the blind Mexican cave fish, Astyanax fasciatus. An unconditioned rheotactic response to uniform velocity flows was exhibited, with a threshold of less than 3 cm s−1. Disabling the entire lateral line or the superficial neuromast receptor class increased the rheotactic threshold to greater than 9 cm s−1. A pharmacological block of the lateral line canal system alone had no effect. These results demonstrate that the superficial lateral line system controls rheotaxis at low current velocities. The effect of pairing an odor stimulant with the water current dropped the rheotactic threshold to less than 0.4 cm s−1. This study provides a clear behavioral role for the superficial neuromasts where none previously existed, and also establishes a link between the mechanosensory lateral line and olfactory systems in the olfactory search behavior of the cave fish.