VISION AND SENSORY PHYSIOLOGY The lateral line systems of three deep-sea fish


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The distribution and ultrastructure of the lateral line systems in three taxonomically dispersed deep-sea fish are described: Poromitra capito, Melanonus zugmayeri and Phrynichthys wedli. They are meso- to bathpelagic and are thought to feed on small crustaceans and fish. All possess highly developed lateral line systems, a feature associated with life in the deep sea. Poromitra capito and M. zugmayeri exhibit widened head canals which are connected to the outside by large pores and which contain around 60 large neuromasts. Each neuromast consists of a cupula, shield-shaped mantle and a sensory plate containing hundreds to thousands of hair cells. Direction of sensitivity is in the long axis of the canal (perpendicular to the long axis of the mantle). Depending on their position on the sensory plate, the hair cells have different morphologies. They fall into three basic classes which, from comparison with past work, may be tuned to different frequencies. Alternatively, the various hair cell morphologies could be interpreted as being members of a developmental or growth sequence. Phrynichthys wedli has no canal organs, these being replaced secondarily by many superficial neuromasts placed on prominent papillae in rows which cover much of the ‘head’ and body. Direction of sensitivity is along the axis of the neuromast row. An extreme proliferation of superficial neuromasts are also found on the heads of P. capito and M. zugmayeri and these are of a type not described before. They consist of stitches, raised on papillae in M. zugmayeri and several mm long in P. capito, in which continuous lines of hair cells, two to three cells wide, are embedded. Direction of sensitivity is perpendicular to the long axis of the stitch. Based on the structure and direction of sensitivity, possible functional implications of all the neuromast types described are compared and discussed.