Lateral line system
Coombs, Sheryl Parmly Hearing Institute, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois.
Webb, Jacqueline F. Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania.
Last reviewed:August 2020
- Structure and function
- Distribution on the head and body
- Processing of information
- Behavioral significance
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A primitive vertebrate sensory system that is present in all larval and adult fishes, in larval amphibians (such as tadpoles), and in some adult amphibians that retain an aquatic lifestyle (including the clawed frog). It is absent from all reptiles, birds, and mammals, even those that are aquatic (such as turtles, dolphins, and whales). The lateral line system consists of 100 or more sensory organs (neuromasts) that are typically arranged in lines on or just under the skin of the head and body. Neuromasts are composed of sensory hair cells, which are also found in the auditory system of all vertebrates. The lateral line system responds to water flowing past the skin surface and uses different flow patterns over the body to form hydrodynamic images of the animal's nearby surroundings, just as the visual system forms visual images of the environment using different light patterns on the retina.
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