Analysis of aerodynamic and electrostatic sensing in mechanoreceptor arthropod hairs

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We study the mechanics of mechanoreceptor hairs in response to electro- and acousto-stimuli to expand the theory of tuning within filiform mechano-sensory systems and show the physical, biological and parametric feasibility of electroreception in comparison to aerodynamic sensing. We begin by analysing two well-known mechanosensory systems, the MeD1 spider trichobothria and the cricket cercal hair, offering a systematic appraisal of the physics of mechanosensory hair motion. Then we explore the biologically relevant parameter space of mechanoreceptor hairs by varying each oscillator parameter, thereby extending the theory to general arthropods. In doing so, we readily identify combinations of parameters for which a hair shows an enhanced or distinct response to either electric or aerodynamic stimuli. Overall, we find distinct behaviours in the two systems with novel insight provided through the parameter-space analysis. We show how the parameter space and balance of parameters therein of the resonant spider system are organised to produce a highly tuneable hair system through variation of hair length, whilst the broader parameter space of the non-resonant cricket system responds equally to a wider range of driving frequencies with increased capacity for high temporal resolution. From our analysis, we hypothesise the existence of two distinct types of mechanoreceptive system: the general system where hairs of all lengths are poised to detect both electro- and acousto- stimuli, and a stimuli-specific system where the sensitivity and specificity of the hairs to the different stimuli changes with length.
Original languageEnglish
Article number110871
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Early online date16 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by BBSRC (BB/T003235/1) to DR and IVC, and an ERC AdG grant ElectroBee to DR.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors


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