Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 193, Issue 7, pp 753–763 | Cite as

Kármán vortex street detection by the lateral line

  • Boris P. ChagnaudEmail author
  • Horst Bleckmann
  • Michael H. Hofmann
Original Paper


Fish use the lateral line system for prey detection, predator avoidance, schooling behavior, intraspecific communication and spatial orientation. In addition the lateral line may be important for station holding and for the detection of the hydrodynamic trails (vortex streets) generated by swimming fish. We investigated the responses of anterior lateral line nerve fibers of goldfish, Carassius auratus, to unidirectional water flow (10 cm s−1) and to running water that contained a Kármán vortex street. Compared to still water conditions, both unidirectional water flow and Kármán vortex streets caused a similar increase in the discharge rate of anterior lateral line nerve fibers. If exposed to a Kármán vortex street, the amplitude of spike train frequency spectra increased at the vortex shedding frequency. This increase was especially pronounced if the fish intercepted the edge of a Kármán vortex street. Our data show that the vortex shedding frequency can be retrieved from the responses of anterior lateral line nerve fibers.


Anterior lateral line nerve Kármán vortex street Particle image velocimetry Teleost fish Carassius auratus 



Maximum amplitude of Fourier spectra divided by average amplitude


Canal neuromast


Calculated vortex shedding frequency


Firing variability


Kármán vortex street


Particle image velocimetry


Root mean square




Superficial neuromast


Actual flow velocity


Nominal flow velocity


Vortex shedding frequency


Width of flow tank



We would like to thank S Coombs and J. Mogdans for critically reading and commenting on an early draft of the manuscript. The manuscript was improved through the comments of two anonymous reviewers. The experiments reported in this paper comply with the current animal protection law of the Federal Republic of Germany (‘Tierschutzgesetz’). Funded by DARPA and the DFG (Bl-242/10-1).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Boris P. Chagnaud
    • 1
    Email author
  • Horst Bleckmann
    • 1
  • Michael H. Hofmann
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of ZoologyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany
  2. 2.Center for Neurodynamics, Department of BiologyUniversity of Missouri-St LouisSt LouisUSA

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