Behavior, Electrophysiology and Robotics Experiments to Study Lateral Line Sensing in Fishes

Melanie Haehnel-Taguchi, Otar Akanyeti, James C. Liao

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The lateral line system is a sensory system unique to fishes and amphibians. It is composed of distributed mechanosensory hair cell organs on the head and body (neuromasts), which are sensitive to pressure gradients and water movements. Over the last decade, we have pursued an interdisciplinary approach by combining behavioral, electrophysiology, and robotics experiments to study this fascinating sensory system. In behavioral and electrophysiology experiments, we have studied the larval lateral line system in the model genetic organism, zebrafish (Danio rerio). We found that the lateral line system, even in 5-day-old larvae, is involved in an array of behaviors that are critical to survival, and the deflection of a single neuromast can elicit a swimming response. In robotics experiments, we used a range of physical models with distributed pressure sensors to better understand the hydrodynamic environments from the local perspective of a fish or robot. So far, our efforts have focused on extracting control-related information for a range of application scenarios including characterizing unsteady flows such as Kármán vortex streets for station holding. We also used robot models to test biological hypotheses on how morphology and movement of fishes affect lateral line sensing. Overall, with this review we aim to increase the visibility and accessibility of this multi-disciplinary research approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbericy066
Pages (from-to)874-883
Number of pages10
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number5
Early online date05 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Nov 2018


  • Animals
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Feedback, Sensory
  • Lateral Line System/physiology
  • Mechanoreceptors/physiology
  • Robotics
  • Swimming/physiology
  • Zebrafish/physiology


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