Sensory System Affects Orientational Strategy in a Short-Range Spatial Task in Blind and Eyed Morphs of the Fish, Astyanax fasciatus


Theresa Burt de Perera, Animal Behaviour Research Group, Department of Zoology, South Parks Road, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.


In the concerted effort to discover the mechanisms that animals use to orient through space, little attention has been given to the role of the sensory system on shaping orientational strategy. This study tests whether animals with different sensory systems use different mechanisms to orient. The characin fish Astyanax fasciatus (Cuvier, 1819) exists in two morphs in the same species – a number of populations of blind cave fish that rely on their lateral line to gain fine-scale information from their surroundings, and eyed surface populations that can also use visual cues. Both forms of the species were trained to orient to a goal signalled by landmarks and by egocentrically based cues (turn left or right) in a T-maze. When these cues were placed in conflict by switching the landmark position, only the eyed fish used the landmarks to orient, reflecting a difference in the way that the two sensory systems of these animals operate. Our results have implications for the evolution of the mechanisms of orientation, suggesting that these mechanisms may be constrained by the sensory cues that are available and hence the type of information that animals are able to glean from their surroundings.