Patchwork-like image of developing zebrafish sensory organ

Jun 15, 2010
Picture credits: Virginie Lecaudey / EMBL.

This image may bring to mind a patchwork quilt, or a picture taken from a gallery of abstract paintings, but the artisan behind it is actually Mother Nature, with a little help from scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany. Using an electron microscope, Virginie Lecaudey in Darren Gilmour’s group at EMBL captured this snapshot of the beginnings of an organ which plays a central role in how zebrafish perceive the world around them - the lateral line.

Named after its position on the flanks of adult fish, the lateral line is a series of sensory organs through which most fish detect vibrations in the water, helping them to detect predators or prey, for example. As a embryo develops, the cells that will form its lateral line have to become pointed at one end and arrange themselves around a central, unchanged cell, like cloves in a bulb of garlic, forming a rosette. This image shows one such rosette, magnified approximately 10 000 times.

The EMBL scientists discovered that if the cells can’t change shape to form rosettes, they don’t migrate properly along the embryo’s sides, and the lateral line doesn’t develop. “Surprisingly, we also found that this change in cell shape is triggered by a molecular signal that’s known to have the opposite effect in other situations” Gilmour says: “activating this same signal in a developing chick, for instance, leads to a completely different picture.”

The image is false-coloured to highlight the individual cells.

Explore further: Myanmar captures rare white elephant in western jungles

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists trace origin of shark’s electric sense

Feb 06, 2006

Sharks are known for their almost uncanny ability to detect electrical signals while hunting and navigating. Now researchers have traced the origin of those electrosensory powers to the same type of embryonic ...

Study shows how the zebrafish gets his stripe

Sep 25, 2007

Scientists have discovered how the zebrafish (Danio rerio) develops one of its four stripes. Their findings add to the growing list of tasks carried out by an important molecule that is involved in the arrangement of everything ...

Recommended for you

Modern methods lead the way toward a rhino rebound

6 minutes ago

Cutting-edge technology and techniques have become essential tools in the effort to save rhinos. Micro chips, translocation and consumer campaigns are helping shift the balance against record-setting poaching ...

Tracking bald eagles in coastal North Carolina

6 minutes ago

Few animals capture the public imagination like the bald eagle. But despite their status as a national emblem, we still have a lot to learn about their behavior in the wild. Now NC State researchers are part ...

The water trading strategies of plants

57 minutes ago

Plants trade water for carbon – every litre of water that they extract from the soil allows them to take up a few more grams of carbon from the atmosphere to use in growth. A new global study, led by Australian ...

Chinese ivory traders find haven online

3 hours ago

China's booming e-commerce websites have carried thousands of advertisements for illegal wildlife products including ivory, rhino horn and tiger bone, a wildlife trade monitoring network said on Tuesday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.