Evolutionary shift towards lateral line dependent prey capture behavior in the blind Mexican cavefish. Academic Article uri icon


  • Feeding strategies are dependent on multi-modal sensory processing, that integrates visual, chemosensory, and mechanoreceptive cues. In many fish species, local environments and food availability dramatically influence the evolution of sensory and morphological traits that underlie feeding. The Mexican cavefish, Astyanax mexicanus, have developed robust changes in sensory-dependent behaviors, but the impact on prey detection and feeding behavior is not known. In the absence of eyes, cavefish have evolved enhanced sensitivity of the lateral line, comprised of mechanosensory organs that sense water flow and detect prey. Here, we identify evolved differences in prey capture behavior of larval cavefish that are dependent on lateral line sensitivity. Under lighted conditions, cavefish strike Artemia prey at a wider angle than surface fish; however, this difference is diminished under dark conditions. In addition, the strike distance is greater in cavefish than surface fish, revealing an ability to capture, and likely detect, prey at greater distances. Experimental ablation of the lateral line disrupts prey capture in cavefish under both light and dark conditions, while it only impacts surface fish under dark conditions. Together, these findings identify an evolutionary shift towards a dependence on the lateral line for prey capture in cavefish, providing a model for investigating how loss of visual cues impacts multi-modal sensory behaviors.

published proceedings

  • Dev Biol

author list (cited authors)

  • Lloyd, E., Olive, C., Stahl, B. A., Jaggard, J. B., Amaral, P., Dubou, E. R., & Keene, A. C.

citation count

  • 45

complete list of authors

  • Lloyd, Evan||Olive, Courtney||Stahl, Bethany A||Jaggard, James B||Amaral, Paloma||DubouĂ©, Erik R||Keene, Alex C

publication date

  • September 2018