Evolutionary and ecological significance of mechanosenor morphology: copepods as a model system
Fields, David M.
Weissburg, Marc J.
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The ability to sense fluid motion is strongly influenced by morphological properties of setae and by the way in which they are organized into an ensemble along the mechanosensory organ (i.e. the antennule). Setal length and orientation affect how setae encode basic properties such as velocity, frequency and direction, whereas the arraignment of setae mediate perception of more complicated properties, such as shear. Morphological and physiological data indicate that the design of setae and antennules bias an organism towards detecting particular types of disturbances, or for efficient operation in certain environments. These structure-function relationships provide potential insight into trophic status, predator detection abilities or distributions, and perhaps can explain the fantastic degree of variation in setal morphology. However, structure-function predictions remain largely unverified, because we generally lack complementary data on both the design and ecological roles of the mechanosensory system in a particular organism. Thus, an important challenge is to use a comparative approach to determine whether design principles of mechanosensory systems can explain organismal properties, and therefore provide insights into ecological interactions in the plankton.