Otoliths developed in microgravity.

M. L. Wiederhold, J. L. Harrison, K. Parker, H. Nomura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Little is known about mechanisms that regulate the development of the otoliths in the gravity-sensing organs. Several reported experiments suggest that the growth of the otoliths is adjusted to produce a test mass of the appropriate weight. If this is the case, larger than normal otoliths would be expected in animals reared in reduced gravity and a reduced mass, relative to 1-g controls, would be expected in animals reared at elevated g. In gastropod mollusks, the gravity-sensing organ is the statocyst, a spherical organ whose wall is made largely of sensory receptor cells with motile cilia facing the lumen. Dense statoconia in the cyst lumen interact with cilia of receptor cells at the bottom of the cyst and action potentials in their axons carry information on direction and magnitude of gravity and linear acceleration. In the marine mollusk, Aplysia californica, larvae reared at 2 to 5-g, the volume of statoconia was reduced in a graded manner, compared to 1-g control animals. In the statocyst of the fresh-water pond snail, Biomphalaria glabrata, reared in space in the Closed Equilibrated Biological Aquatic System (CEBAS), the number and total volume of statoconia was increased approximately 50%, relative to ground-reared controls. Lychakov found the utricular otolith to be 30% larger in space-reared Xenopus, whereas we found the saccular otolith to be significantly larger in newt larvae reared in space. In cichlid fish reared on a centrifuge, the saccular otolith was smaller than in 1-g controls. Here, we demonstrate that the otoliths of late-stage embryos of the swordtail fish, Xiphophorus helleri, reared in space on STS-89 and STS-90 (Neurolab) were significantly larger than those of ground-controls reared in functionally identical hardware.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)P39-42
JournalJournal of gravitational physiology : a journal of the International Society for Gravitational Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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