Chemical and hydromechanical cue structure in the context of turbulent odor plume tracking

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Dickman, Brian D.
Roberts, Philip J. W.
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The main focus of the current study was to quantify the chemical signals received by a blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) tracking a source in a laboratory flume. To make a direct linkage between tracking behavior and the odorant concentration signal, we developed a measurement system to quantify the instantaneous concentration field surrounding actively tracking blue crabs. A three-dimensional laser-induced fluorescence (3DLIF) system was designed and constructed to measure odorant concentrations around crabs tracking three source types: a continuous release with exit velocity matching the mean local velocity in the flume; a continuous release with a meander created by an upstream cylinder; and a pulsed release switching on and off and with the same mass flow rate as the other two plume types. The meandering and pulsed plumes were introduced to observe the effects of large-scale spatial (meandering) and temporal (pulsed) intermittency on crab tracking. Simultaneous with the chemical concentration measurements, crab position data was recorded for kinematic analysis during post-processing. In addition, concentration measurements were collected for the three plume types without crabs present in order to quantify the statistical characteristics of the plume structure The concentration signals arriving at the antennules and outer chemosensory organs, most notably the legs, were targeted due to the hypotheses that concentration bursts at the antennules mediate upstream movement and that spatial contrast at the leg chemosensors mediates turning. A sampling zone was placed in front of the crab's mouth parts and aligned with the crab carapace orientation to extract odorant bursts at the antennules. The data generally showed an increase in upstream walking speed when high concentration bursts arrive at the antennules location, which agrees with the hypothesis. Measurement of the odorant concentration at the outer chemosensors was less direct and involved placing a box upstream of the crab and sampled earlier in time in order to avoid shadowing interference. Based on the signal at the upstream sampling box, a general bias for turning was observed. Crabs casted transversely in response to the directional bias extracted from the upstream sampling box. A statistical analysis of crab behavioral response to concentrations at the antennules and outer chemosensors can be found in a (future) companion thesis written by Jennifer Page in the School of Biology. Data were also taken for the three plume types in the absence of blue crabs. The continuous plume average statistics displayed Gaussian behavior at nozzle centerline. The meandering plume data conformed to the meandering plume model of Gifford (1959), modified for an induced pseudo-periodic meander. The pulsed plume displayed characteristics intermediate between the cloud dispersion model (Townsend 1951, Chatwin and Sullivan 1979) and the Gaussian dispersion model for a continuous release. For the three plume types, the standard deviation of the concentration fluctuations was greater than the average concentrations, as time records consisted of intermittent high concentrations interspersed with concentrations close to zero.
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