Relative contributions of organ shape and receptor arrangement to the design of cricket’s cercal system

  • Olivier Dangles
  • Thomas Steinmann
  • Dominique Pierre
  • Fabrice Vannier
  • Jérôme Casas
Original Paper


Understanding the relative contributions of the shape of a sensory organ and the arrangement of receptors to the overall performance of the organ has long been a challenge for sensory biologists. We tackled this issue using the wind-sensing system of crickets, the cerci, two conical abdominal appendages covered with arrays of filiform hairs. Scanning electron microscopy coupled with 3D reconstruction methods were used for mapping of all cercal filiform hairs. The hairs are arranged according to their diameter in a way that avoids collisions with neighbours during hair deflection: long hairs are regularly spaced, whereas short hairs are both randomly and densely distributed. Particle image velocimetry showed that the variation in diameter of the cercus along its length modifies the pattern of fluid velocities. Hairs are subject to higher air flow amplitudes at the base than at the apex of the cercus. The relative importance of interactions between receptors and the air flow around the organ may explain the performance of the cricket’s cercal system: it is characterised by a high density of statistically non-interacting short hairs located at the base of the cercus where sensitivity to air currents is the highest.


Air sensing Sensory ecology Particle image velocimetry Point pattern analysis Sensory hair arrays 



The authors thank two anonymous reviewers and Gijs Krijnen for their constructive comments on the first version of this manuscript. They also thank Philippe Caparroy for his help in the three-dimensional reconstitution of the cercus surface. This work is part of the research conducted within the Cricket Inspired perCeption and Autonomous Decision Automata (CICADA) project (IST-2001-34718) and within the Customized Intelligent Life Inspired Arrays (CILIA) project (FP6-IST-016039). These projects are both funded by the European Community under the “Information Society Technologies–IST” Program, Future and emergent Technologies (FET), Lifelike Perception Systems action.


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Copyright information

© Springer Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olivier Dangles
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Thomas Steinmann
    • 1
  • Dominique Pierre
    • 1
  • Fabrice Vannier
    • 1
  • Jérôme Casas
    • 1
  1. 1.Université de Tours, IRBI UMR CNRS 6035ToursFrance
  2. 2.IRD, UR 072, Laboratoire Evolution, Génomes et Spéciation, UPR 9034, CNRSGif-sur-Yvette CedexFrance
  3. 3.Université Paris-Sud 11Orsay CedexFrance

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