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Brain Behav Evol. 1994;44(6):299-306.

Form and function relationships in lateral line systems: comparative data from six species of Antarctic notothenioid fish.

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Department of Zoology, University of Auckland, New Zealand.


The structure and physiology of the anterior lateral line canal systems were studied in six species of fish belonging to two different families within the suborder of antarctic fish Notothenioidei. Many of the canals within the species belonging to the genus Trematomus are relatively straight sided tubes with diameters around 0.4 mm. Some of the canals in Trematomus, and most of the canals in the icefishes (family Channichthyidae) are more complex. Relatively small pores lead into large tubules, the walls of which appear partially membranous, and the canals not much more than constrictions between adjacent tubules. Dissostichus mawsoni, a large species, has canals with distinctive wide and narrow sections, 1.8 mm and 0.48 mm, respectively. Despite these morphological differences the frequency response characteristics of anterior lateral line units are remarkably similar in all six species. In the case of D. mawsoni, this functional similarity results from narrow sections of the canals, which provide the viscous resistance to flow that preserves the mechanical filtering properties of the canal despite the huge size difference between D. mawsoni and the other species. It is argued that the most appropriate way to view canals is as high pass filters which attenuate lower frequencies, and that this effect is best illustrated by comparing the frequency response characteristics of superficial and canal neuromasts using a sinusoidal stimulus that has a constant peak-to-peak velocity. The functional contribution of canals is to attenuate low frequencies and improve the signal-to-noise ratio for biologically important signals in the presence of low frequency noise produced, for example, by the animal's own movements.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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