Allison Campbell, Ashlyn Dykes, and Patricia Mire
Animals employ hair bundles on hair cells to detect flow, vibrations and gravity. Hair bundles on sea anemone tentacles detect nearby vibrations in the water column produced by prey movements and then regulate discharge of cnidae to capture prey. This study investigated: (1) the progressive effects of periodic water flow on hair bundle morphology and density of hair bundles and cnidae in sea anemones, (2) the reversibility of the flow response and (3) the ability of the response to be expedited with increased flow duration. Linear density of hair bundles along tentacles and each hair bundle’s dimensions was measured in anemones exposed to flow and in the absence of flow. With increasing numbers of days of flow, hair bundles in anemones exposed to flow for 1 h every weekday for 20 days increased in density and grew longer and wider at bases and middles, whereas controls did not. Time courses fit to a linear function exhibited significantly larger positive slopes from animals exposed to flow compared with controls. Hair bundles in anemones exposed to flow for 3 h each day increased in linear density, length, base width and middle width after 10 days of flow and returned to control levels after 10 days following cessation of flow. In addition, there was a trend for an increase in density of cnidae with flow. Therefore, anemone hair bundles are dynamically and reversibly modified by periodic, moderate flow to become more abundant and robust. These findings may have relevance to hair cells in acoustico-lateralis systems of higher animals.