Date of Original Version
The mechanosensory lateral line system of fishes detects water motions within a few body lengths of the source. Several types of artificial stimuli have been used to probe lateral line function in the laboratory, but few studies have investigated the role of flow sensing in benthic feeding teleosts. In this study, we used artificial flows emerging from a sandy substrate to assess the contribution of flow sensing to prey detection in the peacock cichlid, Aulonocara stuartgranti, which feeds on benthic invertebrates in Lake Malawi. Using a positive reinforcement protocol, we trained fish to respond to flows lacking the visual and chemical cues generated by tethered prey in prior studies with A. stuartgranti. Fish successfully responded to artificial flows at all five rates presented (characterized using digital particle image velocimetry), and showed a range of flow-sensing behaviors, including an unconditioned bite response. Immediately after lateral line inactivation, fish rarely responded to flows and the loss of vital fluorescent staining of hair cells (with 4-di-2-ASP) verified lateral line inactivation. Within 2 days post-treatment, some aspects of flow-sensing behavior returned and after 7 days, flow-sensing behavior and hair cell fluorescence both returned to pre-treatment levels, which is consistent with the reported timing of hair cell regeneration in other vertebrates. The presentation of ecologically relevant water flows to assess flow-sensing behaviors and the use of a positive reinforcement protocol are methods that present new opportunities to study the role of flow sensing in the feeding ecology of benthic feeding fishes.
Schwalbe, M. A.B., Sevey, B. J., & Webb, J. F. (2016). Detection of artificial water flows by the lateral line system of a benthic feeding cichlid fish. Journal of Experimental Viology, 219, 1050-1059: doi: 10.1242/jeb.136150
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jeb.136150