Morphology of the mechanosensory lateral line system in the Atlantic stingray, Dasyatis sabina: The mechanotactile hypothesis

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The biological function of anatomical specializations in the mechanosensory lateral line of elasmobranch fishes is essentially unknown. The gross and histological features of the lateral line in the Atlantic stingray, Dasyatis sabina, were examined with special reference to its role in the localization and capture of natural invertebrate prey. Superficial neuromasts are arranged in bilateral rows near the dorsal midline from the spiracle to the posterior body disk and in a lateral position along the entire length of the tail. All dorsal lateral line canals are pored, contain sensory neuromasts, and have accessory lateral tubules that most likely function to increase their receptive field. The pored ventral canal system consists of the lateral hyomandibular canal along the disk margin and the short, separate mandibular canal on the lower jaw. The extensive nonpored and relatively compliant ventral infraorbital, supraorbital, and medial hyomandibular canals form a continuous complex on the snout, around the mouth, and along the abdomen. Vesicles of Savi are small mechanosensory subdermal pouches that occur in bilateral rows only along the ventral midline of the rostrum. Superficial neuromasts are best positioned to detect water movements along the transverse body axis such as those produced by tidal currents, conspecifics, or predators. The pored dorsal canal system is positioned to detect water movements created by conspecifics, predators, or possibly distortions in the flow field during swimming. Based upon the stingray lateral line morphology and feeding behavior, we propose the Mechanotactile Hypothesis, which states that the ventral nonpored canals and vesicles of Savi function as specialized tactile mechanoreceptors that facilitate the detection and capture of small benthic invertebrate prey.

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Journal of Morphology

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