Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 196, Issue 11, pp 853–867 | Cite as

Active wall following by Mexican blind cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus)

  • Paul Patton
  • Shane Windsor
  • Sheryl Coombs
Original Paper


When introduced into a novel environment that limits or prevents vision, a variety of species including Mexican blind cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus) exhibit wall-following behaviors. It is often assumed that wall following serves an exploratory function, but this assertion remains untested against alternative artifactual explanations. Here, we test whether wall following by cavefish is a purposeful behavior in which fish actively maintain a close relationship with the wall, or an artifactual consequence of being enclosed in a small concave arena, in which fish turn slightly to avoid the wall whenever it impedes forward movement. Wall-following abilities of fish were tested in a large, goggle-shaped arena, where forward motion along the convex wall was unimpeded. In this circumstance, cavefish continued to follow the wall at frequencies significantly above chance levels. Lateral line inactivation significantly reduced the ability of fish to follow convex, but not concave or straight, walls. Wall-following abilities of normal fish decreased with decreasing radius of wall convex curvature. Our results demonstrate that cavefish actively follow walls of varying contours. Radius-of-curvature effects coupled with the difficulties posed by convex walls to lateral line-deprived fish suggest a partially complementary use of tactile and lateral line information to regulate distance from the wall.


Astyanax Wall following Exploratory behavior Lateral line Spatial cognition 





Bowling Green State University


Light emitting diode


Cobalt chloride



We thank Dr. Tim Bonner for providing Mexican tetra, Tristan Ula for the care and maintenance of experimental animals and Saurabh Sharma for his assistance in conducting experiments. This work was part of a multi-university collaboration supported by the Bioinspired Concepts program (funded by the AIR force Office of Scientific Research) and the BioSenSE program (funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and Chang Liu, PI. These experiments comply with the “Principles of animal care”, publication No. 86-23, revised 1985 of the National Institute of Health, and also with the current laws of the USA. We are grateful to John Montgomery for his support over the course of this work. SPW’s research was supported by a Tertiary Education Commission Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship and a University of Auckland Doctoral Scholarship.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and JP Scott Center for Neuroscience, Mind and BehaviorBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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