Behavioral and neurophysiological assessment of lateral line sensitivity in the mottled sculpin, Cottus bairdi

J Comp Physiol A. 1990 Sep;167(4):557-67. doi: 10.1007/BF00190827.


1. The unconditioned feeding response of the mottled sculpin, Cottus bairdi, was used to measure threshold sensitivity of the lateral line system to a vibrating sphere as a function of stimulus position (i.e., sphere near head, trunk or tail) and vibration frequency. In addition, extracellular recording techniques were used to measure threshold sensitivity curves for posterior lateral line nerve fibers for the same stimulus positions used for measuring trunk sensitivity in behavioral measurements. 2. For all stimulus positions, behaviorally-measured threshold sensitivity was relatively independent of vibration frequency from 10 to 100 Hz when defined in terms of water acceleration, rather than velocity or displacement. Best thresholds for stimuli placed 15 mm away from the head were around -75 dB re: 1m/s(2), approximately 20 dB less than that for stimuli placed at the same distance near the tail. Trunk sensitivity was intermediate. 3. Physiologically-measured threshold sensitivity, in terms of acceleration, was also relatively independent of of frequency from 10 to 100 Hz in most fibers. A smaller number of fibers showed a decline in acceleration sensitivity after 10-30 Hz, with the rate of decline being equivalent to equal velocity sensitivity. Best sensitivity of all fibers fell between -40 and -70 dB re: 1m/s (2). 4. These results indicate that (a) behavioral thresholds are based on acceleration-sensitive endorgans--most likely lateral line canal (rather than superficial) neuromasts, (b) behavioral performance can be accounted for on the basis of information from a single population of fibers, and (c) sensitivity varies along the fish's body in a manner that corresponds to the size and distribution of neuromasts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Behavior, Animal
  • Differential Threshold
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Fishes / physiology*
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology*
  • Vibration