CILIA - Customized Intelligent Life-inspired Arrays

Project funded by the Future and Emergent Technologies arm of the IST Programme in the 6th Framework Programme

6th Framework Programme
The Cricket Hairs




Crickets possess some of the most sensitive hairs on two cerci, appendages at the rear of the animal (A).
These hairs (B), which function at the thermal noise level, are able to pick up the faintest air flows produced by attacking predators, such as flying wasps or running spiders. Each hair is innervated by a single mechanosensory receptor neuron. These receptor neurons get mechanically stretched if the hairs are moved by air flow (C).

The signals are then transferred by the axons of the receptor neurons (cercal nerve) in an orderly array to the terminal abodminal ganglion (D, green fibres). There they form monosynaptic excitatory connections onto a set of local and projecting interneurons within the terminal abdominal ganglion (red cell bodies and fibres), resulting in a continuous representation (map) of air current direction and dynamics.



The terminal abdominal ganglion is a kind of local brain in charge of the computation of the signals and modulating the motor pattern of the hind legs, which is generated in thoracic ganglia (other local brains). Thus, a cricket can escape a predator by fleeing almost before its main brain knows about it!

We want to know the fluid dynamics of predator signal generation and perception, the neural processing of the received signals and the ecological and evolutionary process explaining why these animals have such delicate structures.