Image of the Day: Water Sensors

Zebrafish detect water movement around them through signals sent to the brain by cells containing tiny hairs.

Feb 19, 2019
Carolyn Wilke

ABOVE: A group of cells called the lateral line primordium migrates to form the lateral line of a zebrafish.

Researchers at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research are studying the development of a sensory system in zebrafish, called the lateral line, and how it detects the movement of water around the animal. 

The lateral line covers the whole body of zebrafish, and is made up of volcano-shape organs known as neuromasts. Inside the neuromasts are a bunch of “hair cells,” each containing an off-center, wispy cilium. The coordinated, but differently oriented hair cells allow the zebrafish to detect water’s movement in any direction. 

If the hair cells lose their orientation, the signals sent to the brain change and the creature can have a more difficult time navigating. The scientists recently reported how various mutations affect the orientation of hair cells in a preprint.  

Neuromasts (light green spots) of the lateral line on the head and trunk of a zebrafish
Inside each neuromast reside hair cells (bunched, round cells) that detect water movement using cilia.

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