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date: 09 December 2023

Chemoreception in Fisheslocked

Chemoreception in Fisheslocked

  • Hiroshi UedaHiroshi UedaEmeritus Professor, Hokkaido University


Chemoreception is the physiological capacity whereby organisms detect the varied external and internal chemical information required for survival and is the most primitive sensory process. Fish living in water have respiratory, gustatory, and olfactory chemosensory systems that detect water-soluble chemical cues. Respiratory chemoreception mainly in the gills detects changes in the levels of three respiratory gases: oxygen (O2), carbon dioxide (CO2), and ammonia (NH3). Gustatory chemoreception (gustation), which involves several taste receptor genes, is primarily involved in the tasting of foods. Olfactory chemoreception (olfaction), which involves between 15 and 150 olfactory receptor genes, is involved in a variety of important biological functions such as procuring foods, recognizing hazards (predators, contaminants, and toxic and alarm substances), discriminating species (individual, kin, and conspecific), controlling social behavior (dominance hierarchies, symbiotic behavior, territorial behavior, and schooling behavior), and reproductive and migratory behavior (mating, search for spawning site, imprinting, and homing). The olfactory functions are primarily controlled by hormones secreted from various endocrine glands that are the key mediators and integrators of external and internal information in organisms. Conversely, olfactory stimuli cause changes in hormone conditions.

One good example is the amazing olfactory abilities of salmon. They can memorize information related to their natal stream odors during downstream migration in juveniles so that, after they travel thousands of kilometers in the ocean over many years during feeding migration, they are able to use their homing abilities to migrate precisely to their natal stream for reproduction in adults. Olfactory memory formation and retrieval of natal stream odors in salmon, which are primarily controlled by the brain–pituitary–thyroid hormones and brain–pituitary–gonad hormones, respectively, are essential to imprinting and homing migration. Salmon olfactory systems can discriminate seasonally and yearly stable compositions of dissolved amino acids in their natal streams produced by biofilms in the riverbed. Ocean and freshwater ecosystems may have been affected by climate change-related CO2-induced acidification that impairs olfactory-mediated neural and behavioral responses in fish.


  • Sensory Systems

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