Lateral line
The lateral line is a sense
Senses are physiological capacities of organisms that provide inputs for perception. The senses and their operation, classification, and theory are overlapping topics studied by a variety of fields, most notably neuroscience, cognitive psychology , and philosophy of perception...

 organ in aquatic organisms (chiefly fish
Fish are a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate animals that lack limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups...

), used to detect movement and vibration in the surrounding water. Lateral lines are usually visible as faint lines running lengthwise down each side, from the vicinity of the gill cover
Operculum (fish)
The operculum of a bony fish is the hard bony flap covering and protecting the gills. In most fish, the rear edge of the operculum roughly marks the division between the head and the body....

s to the base of the tail. Sometimes parts of the lateral organ are modified into electroreceptors
Electroreception is the biological ability to perceive natural electrical stimuli. It has been observed only in aquatic or amphibious animals, since water is a much better conductor than air. Electroreception is used in electrolocation and for electrocommunication.- Overview :Electroreception is...

, which are organs used to detect electrical
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 impulses. It is possible that vertebrate
Vertebrates are animals that are members of the subphylum Vertebrata . Vertebrates are the largest group of chordates, with currently about 58,000 species described. Vertebrates include the jawless fishes, bony fishes, sharks and rays, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds...

s such as shark
Sharks are a type of fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a highly streamlined body. The earliest known sharks date from more than 420 million years ago....

s use the lateral organs to detect magnetic field
Magnetic field
A magnetic field is a mathematical description of the magnetic influence of electric currents and magnetic materials. The magnetic field at any given point is specified by both a direction and a magnitude ; as such it is a vector field.Technically, a magnetic field is a pseudo vector;...

s as well (along with Ampullae of Lorenzini
Ampullae of Lorenzini
The ampullae of Lorenzini are special sensing organs called electroreceptors, forming a network of jelly-filled pores. They are mostly discussed as being found in cartilaginous fishes ; however, they are also reported to be found in Chondrostei such as Reedfish and sturgeon. Lungfish have also been...

). Most amphibian
Amphibians , are a class of vertebrate animals including animals such as toads, frogs, caecilians, and salamanders. They are characterized as non-amniote ectothermic tetrapods...

A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

e and some adult amphibians also have a lateral organ. Some crustacean
Crustaceans form a very large group of arthropods, usually treated as a subphylum, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles. The 50,000 described species range in size from Stygotantulus stocki at , to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span...

s and cephalopod
A cephalopod is any member of the molluscan class Cephalopoda . These exclusively marine animals are characterized by bilateral body symmetry, a prominent head, and a set of arms or tentacles modified from the primitive molluscan foot...

s have similar organs.


The receptors in the lateral line are neuromasts, each of which is composed of a group of hair cells. The hairs are surrounded by a protruding jelly-like cupola
Cupola (disambiguation)
Cupola, a diminutive of the Latin cupa and thus meaning 'little barrel', is used for dome-shaped items, including:* An architectural dome element...

, typically 0.1-0.2 mm long. The hair cells and cupolas of the neuromasts are usually at the bottom of a visible pit or groove in the fish. The hair cells in the lateral line are similar to the hair cells inside the vertebrate inner ear
The ear is the organ that detects sound. It not only receives sound, but also aids in balance and body position. The ear is part of the auditory system....

, suggesting that the lateral line and the inner ear share a common origin.

Teleostei is one of three infraclasses in class Actinopterygii, the ray-finned fishes. This diverse group, which arose in the Triassic period, includes 20,000 extant species in about 40 orders; most living fishes are members of this group...

 and elasmobranchs
Elasmobranchii is a subclass of Chondrichthyes or cartilaginous fish, that includes the sharks and the rays and skates .-Evolution:...

 usually have lateral-line canals, in which the neuromasts are not directly exposed to the environment, but communicate with it via canal pores. Additional neuromasts may appear individually at various locations on the body surface.


The development of the lateral-line system depends on the organisms's mode of life. For instance, fish that are active swimming types tend to have more neuromasts in canals than they have on their surface, and the line will be farther away from the pectoral fins, which probably reduces the amount of "noise" that is generated by fin motion.

The lateral-line system helps the fish to avoid collisions, to orient itself in relation to water currents, and to locate prey. For instance, the blind, cave-living Mexican tetra
Mexican tetra
The Mexican tetra or Blind Cave Fish is a freshwater fishof the characin family oforder Characiformes....

 have rows of neuromasts on their heads, which appear to be used to precisely locate food without the use of sight; killifish
A killifish is any of various oviparous cyprinodontiform fish . Altogether, there are some 1270 different species of killifish, the biggest family being Rivulidae, containing more than 320 species...

 are able to use their lateral line organ to sense the ripples made by insects struggling on the water's surface. Experiments with pollock
Pollock is the common name used for either of the two species of marine fish in the Pollachius genus. Both P. pollachius and P. virens are commonly referred to as pollock. Other names for P...

 have shown that the lateral line is also a key enabler for schooling
Shoaling and schooling
In biology, any group of fish that stay together for social reasons are said to be shoaling , and if, in addition, the group is swimming in the same direction in a coordinated manner, they are said to be schooling . In common usage, the terms are sometimes used rather loosely...


It has also been suggested that the lateral line may give sharks advanced warning of frontal pressure systems and that they use it to avoid severe weather conditions that may result in injury. It was observed that during Hurricane Gabrielle
Hurricane Gabrielle (2001)
Hurricane Gabrielle was a moderate category 1 hurricane which made landfall near Venice, Florida as a strong tropical storm. The eighth tropical cyclone, seventh named storm, and third hurricane of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season, Gabrielle developed from a non-tropical low-to mid-level trough...

, which struck Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

in 2001, juvenile black tip sharks moved to deeper waters as the storm approached.
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