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Morphology and hydro-sensory role of superficial neuromasts in schooling behaviour of yellow-eyed mullet (Aldrichetta forsteri) A Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology

Middlemiss, Karen L., Cook, Denham G., Jerrett, Alistair R., Davison, William
Journal of comparative physiology 2017 v.203 no.10 pp. 807-817
Aldrichetta forsteri, aggregation behavior, coasts, cohesion, fish, hydrodynamics, neuromasts, scanning electron microscopy, Australia, New Zealand
The lateral line system is a mechanosensory organ found in all fish species and located on the skin or in subdermal canals. The basic functional units are superficial and canal neuromasts, which are involved in hydrodynamic sensing and cohesion in schooling fish. Yellow-eyed mullet (Aldrichetta forsteri) are an obligate schooling species found commonly in shallow coastal areas of New Zealand and Australia. Schooling is a fundamental part of their behavioural repertoire, yet little is known about the structure or functionality of the lateral line in this species. We used scanning electron microscopy to characterise the morphology of trunk superficial neuromasts. We then took a multi-sensory approach and conducted behavioural experiments comparing school structure in groups of fish with and without fully functioning lateral lines, under photopic and scotopic conditions. A highly developed hydro-sensing system exists on the trunk of yellow-eyed mullet consisting of superficial neuromasts containing hundreds of hair cells aligned, with respect to their most sensitive axis, in a rostrocaudal direction. Without functioning superficial neuromasts, schooling behaviour was disrupted under both photopic and scotopic conditions and the ability to detect stationary objects decreased. Results highlight the importance of this component of the lateral line system to schooling behaviour.