Olfactory flow in the sturgeon is externally driven

Jonathan Cox, Russell J. Garwood, Behnsen Julia, Harriet K. Haysom, Jeremy N. Hunt , Luke J. Dalby , Samuel K. Quilter, James S. Maclaine

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Fluid dynamics plays an important part in olfaction. Using the complementary techniques of dye visualisation and computational fluid dynamics (CFD), we investigated the hydrodynamics of the nasal region of the sturgeon Huso dauricus. H. dauricus offers several experimental advantages, including a well-developed, well-supported, radial array (rosette) of visible-by-eye olfactory sensory channels. We represented these features in an anatomically accurate rigid model derived from an X-ray scan of the head of a preserved museum specimen. We validated the results from the CFD simulation by comparing them with data from the dye visualisation experiments. We found that flow through both the nasal chamber and, crucially, the sensory channels could be induced by an external flow (caused by swimming in vivo) at a physiologically relevant Reynolds number. Flow through the nasal chamber arises from the anatomical arrangement of the incurrent and excurrent nostrils, and is assisted by the broad, cartilage-supported, inner wall of the incurrent nostril. Flow through the sensory channels arises when relatively high speed flow passing through the incurrent nostril encounters the circular central support of the olfactory rosette, decelerates, and is dispersed amongst the sensory channels. Vortices within the olfactory flow may assist odorant transport to the sensory surfaces. We conclude that swimming alone is sufficient to drive olfactory flow in H. dauricus, and consider the implications of our results for the three other extant genera of sturgeons (Acipenser, Pseudoscaphirhynchus and Scaphirhynchus), and for other fishes with olfactory rosettes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-225
Number of pages15
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology
Early online date21 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2019


  • 3D printing
  • Aphanopus carbo
  • Chimaeridae
  • Hexanchidae
  • Micro-computed tomography
  • Pressure coefficient
  • Static pressure
  • Streamline

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology


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