Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 3–22 | Cite as

Solitary chemosensory cells — taste, common chemical sense or what?

  • Kurt Kotrschal


Secondary solitary chemosensory cells (SCCs) occur scattered within the epidermis of lampreys, teleosts and ranid tadpoles. Counts in representative telost species revealed that SCC's outnumber chemosensory cells organized in taste buds. Therefore, SCCs may be considered the structural substrate of a basic and probably important vertebrate chemosense. However, detailed information on structure, innervation and function is only available from specialized fins in a few teleost species, where SCCs are sufficiently concentrated. The foremost research model has been the anterior dorsal fin (ADF) in rocklings, which contains millions of SCCs but no other specialized chemosensory elements. It has been shown that these ADF-SCCs are innervated from the recurrent facial nerve. Electrophysiological recordings revealed that there is virtually no overlap in stimulus spectrum between the ADF-SCCs and pelvic fin taste buds; SCC responses could only be triggered by dilutions of heterospecific fish body mucus. Results of behavioural experiments indicate that fish mucus is indeed a relevant stimulus. Therefore it is hypothesized that the biological role of the ADF-SCCs is predator avoidance rather than search for food. Whether these findings are valid for rockings only, or can be generalized for the scattered SCC systems in more than 20000 species of fish and in some amphibians, remains an open question. Further investigations on the function and biological roles of the SCC chemosense will be crucially important to improve our understanding of sensory perception and its evolution in aquatic vertebrates.


Facial Nerve Predator Avoidance Teleost Species Aquatic Vertebrate Chemosensory Cell 
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Copyright information

© Chapman & Hall 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kurt Kotrschal
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Konrad-Lorenz-Forschungsstelle für EthologieGrünauAustria
  2. 2.Department of EthologyUniversity of ViennaWienAustria

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