Quantitative characterization of the filiform mechanosensory hair array on the cricket cercus

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Background: Crickets and other orthopteran insects sense air currents with a pair of abdominal appendages resembling antennae, called cerci. Each cercus in the common house cricket Acheta domesticus is approximately 1 cm long, and is covered with 500 to 750 filiform mechanosensory hairs. The distribution of the hairs on the cerci, as well as the global patterns of their movement vectors, have been characterized semi-quantitatively in studies over the last 40 years, and have been shown to be very stereotypical across different animals in this species. Although the cercal sensory system has been the focus of many studies in the areas of neuroethology, development, biomechanics, sensory function and neural coding, there has not yet been a quantitative study of the functional morphology of the receptor array of this important model system. Methodology/Principal Findings: We present a quantitative characterization of the structural characteristics and functional morphology of the cercal filiform hair array. We demonstrate that the excitatory direction along each hair's movement plane can be identified by features of its socket that are visible at the light-microscopic level, and that the length of the hair associated with each socket can also be estimated accurately from a structural parameter of the socket. We characterize the length and directionality of all hairs on the basal half of a sample of three cerci, and present statistical analyses of the distributions. Conclusions/Significance: The inter-animal variation of several global organizational features is low, consistent with constraints imposed by functional effectiveness and/or developmental processes. Contrary to previous reports, however, we show that the filiform hairs are not re-identifiable in the strict sense.




J. P. Miller, S. Krueger, J. J. Heys, and T. Gedeon, “Quantitative Characterization of the Filiform Mechanosensory Hair Array on the Cricket Cercus,” PLoS ONE, vol. 6, no. 11, p. e27873, Nov. 2011.
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