The mechanics and interactions of electrically sensitive mechanoreceptive hair arrays of arthropods

Ryan A Palmer*, Isaac V Chenchiah, Daniel Robert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
50 Downloads (Pure)


Recent investigations highlight the possibility of electroreception within arthropods through charged mechanosensory hairs. This discovery raises questions about the influence of electrostatic interaction between hairs and surrounding electrical fields within this sensory modality. Here, we investigate these questions by studying electrostatic coupling in arrays of hairs. We establish the notion of sensitivity contours that indicate regions within which point charges deflect hairs beyond a given threshold. We then examine how the contour’s shape and size and the overall hair behaviour change in response to variations in the coupling between hairs. This investigation unveils synergistic behaviours whereby the sensitivity of hairs is enhanced or inhibited by neighbouring hairs. The hair spacing and ratio of a system’s electrical parameters to its mechanical parameters influence this behaviour. Our results indicate that electrostatic interaction between hairs leads to emergent sensory properties for biologically relevant parameter values. The analysis raises new questions around the impact of electrostatic interaction on the current understanding of sensory hair processes, such as acoustic sensing, unveiling new sensory capabilities within electroreception such as amplification of hair sensitivity and location detection of charges in the environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20220053
Pages (from-to)20220053
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number188
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by BBSRC (BB/T003235/1) to D.R. and I.V.C., and an ERC AdG grant ELECTROBEE to D.R.

Publisher Copyright:
© Authors 2022


  • mechanoreceptor
  • mechanosensory
  • electroreception
  • electrostatic interaction
  • sensory hairs
  • arthropods


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