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Integr Zool. 2009 Mar;4(1):13-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-4877.2008.00131.x.

Lateral line system of fish.

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Institute of Zoology, University of Bonn, Bonn, GermanyDepartment of Biology, Portland State University, Portland, USA.


The lateral line is a sensory system that allows fishes to detect weak water motions and pressure gradients. The smallest functional unit of the lateral line is the neuromast, a sensory structure that consists of a hair cell epithelium and a cupula that connects the ciliary bundles of the hair cells with the water surrounding the fish. The lateral line of most fishes consists of hundreds of superficial neuromasts spread over the head, trunk and tail fin. In addition, many fish have neuromasts embedded in lateral line canals that open to the environment through a series of pores. The present paper reviews some more recent aspects of the morphology, behavioral relevance and physiology of the fish lateral line. In addition, it reports some new findings with regard to the coding of bulk water flow.

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