The mechanosensory lateral line system in two species of wobbegong shark (Orectolobidae)

Susan M. Theiss, Shaun P. Collin, Nathan S. Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Comparative studies of the mechanosensory lateral line (MLL) have provided valuable insights into the predatory, escape and navigation behaviours of teleost and elasmobranch fishes. Recent work on the MLL in elasmobranchs has focused on canal morphology and pore topography in batoid species, with considerably less detailed examination of the canal system of sharks. In this study, the spatial arrangement of MLL canals and pit organs, and the morphology of the sensory neuromasts, are described for two species of wobbegong shark: the spotted wobbegong Orectolobus maculatus and the ornate wobbegong O. ornatus. Wobbegongs are benthic species that employ an ambush feeding strategy, and it is hypothesised that the MLL will be adapted for both these ecological traits. The spatial distribution of the MLL system in both species is broadly similar to other elasmobranchs, with a dorsal concentration of canals and pit organs that is ideally suited for detecting water flow over the top of the head. This arrangement may facilitate the detection of prey and predators swimming above and in front of the shark. The non-pored canals positioned directly above the mouth may be used as mechanotactile receptors to optimise 'touch' sensation when feeding. Wobbegong canal and pit organ neuromast hair cell morphology is typical of other sharks; however, canal neuromast sensory tissue differs from other elasmobranch species in that it is not continuous throughout the canals. The study provides evidence that the MLL system of wobbegong sharks is well adapted for their rather unique feeding mode and benthic lifestyle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-348
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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