Just like humans, fishes too, have the ability to respond to environmental changes without using their sense of vision, the findings of a new study have revealed. Although this acquired sense is not very well understood, it is helpful in avoiding obstacles and turbulent waters.
Apparently, this sixth sense allows the fishes to detect the flow of water and enables them to understand how they must respond to their environment. The researchers have also created a model of a rainbow trout using the assistance of a taxidermist.
This model enabled them to understand a group of sensory organs which they call the ‘lateral line’ which is capable of detecting vibrations and movements in the water. The researchers have found that this system makes use of canals that have sensory capabilities that create an interface with the environment using certain pores.
The model fish that the researchers used for the study were allowed to go through a series of stimulated real world conditions like changes in water flow, coming face to face to a prey etc. They found that the canal system that gave them this sixth sense was located on the body in areas where strong pressure changes take place- much similar to how radio antennas and TV antennas are placed in order to detect electromagnetic signals.
“We identified a unique layout of flow sensors on the surface of fish that is nearly universal across species, and our research asks why this is so,” said Leif Ristroph, an assistant professor at New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and co-author of the study.
“The network of these sensors is like a hydrodynamic antenna that allows them to retrieve signals about the flow of water and use this information in different behaviors,” Ristroph added.
“You can’t put pressure sensors on a live fish and have it behave normally,” said James Liao, an assistant professor at the University of Florida’s Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience. “This was a creative way to use engineering and physics techniques to answer biological questions you can’t answer otherwise.”
The findings of this study were published in the journal Physical Review Letters.