(Positive) Rheotaxis is a form of taxis seen in many aquatic organisms,[1] e.g., fish, whereby they will (generally) turn to face into an oncoming current. In a flowing stream, this behavior leads them to hold their position rather than being swept downstream by the current. Rheotaxis has been noted in zebrafish and other species,[2] and is found in most major aquatic invertebrate groups.[3] Rheotaxis is important for animal survival because the positioning of an animal in the water can increase its chance of accessing food and lower the amount of energy it spends, especially when it remains stationary.[1] Some organisms such as eels will exhibit negative rheotaxis where they will turn away from and avoid oncoming currents.[4] This action is a part of their tendency to want to migrate.[4] Some zooplankton also exhibit positive or negative rheotaxis.[5]

In fish, the lateral line system is used to determine changes in the oncoming flow pattern of a body of water, and the corresponding orientation of the animal toward or away from the current.[6] The lateral line sensory system consists of mechanosensory hair cells that detect the movement of water.[3] Animals can also use rheotaxis in conjunction with other methods to orient themselves in the water. For example, sea lamprey will use the flow of the current to identify upstream chemical stimuli, and position themselves towards the direction of the signal.[7]

Rheotaxis is also a phenomenon seen in small scale artificial systems. Recently, it was observed that certain self-propelled particles (gold-platinum nanorods) will rheotax and reorient themselves against the flow in small microfluidic channels.[8]


  1. ^ a b Elder, John; Coombs, Sheryl (21 May 2015). "The influence of turbulence on the sensory basis of rheotaxis". Journal of Comparative Physiology A. 201 (7): 667–680. doi:10.1007/s00359-015-1014-7. ISSN 1432-1351. PMID 25994410. S2CID 17702032.
  2. ^ Oteiza, Pablo; Odstrcil, Iris; Lauder, George; Portugues, Ruben; Engert, Florian (2017). "A novel mechanism for mechanosensory-based rheotaxis in larval zebrafish". Nature. 547 (7664): 445–448. doi:10.1038/nature23014. PMC 5873946. PMID 28700578.
  3. ^ a b Suli, Arminda; Watson, Glen M.; Rubel, Edwin W.; Raible, David W. (16 February 2012). "Rheotaxis in Larval Zebrafish Is Mediated by Lateral Line Mechanosensory Hair Cells". PLOS ONE. 7 (2): e29727. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...729727S. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029727. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3281009. PMID 22359538.
  4. ^ a b Du Colombier, SB; Bolliet, V; Bardonnet, A (2009). "Swimming activity and behaviour of European Anguilla anguilla glass eels in response to photoperiod and flow reversal and the role of energy status". Journal of Fish Biology. 74 (9): 2002–13. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2009.02269.x. PMID 20735685.
  5. ^ Holzner, Markus; Souissi, Sami; Fouxon, Itzhak; Michalec, François-Gaël (26 December 2017). "Zooplankton can actively adjust their motility to turbulent flow". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114 (52): E11199–E11207. Bibcode:2017PNAS..11411199M. doi:10.1073/pnas.1708888114. ISSN 1091-6490. PMC 5748176. PMID 29229858.
  6. ^ Brown, Erika E. A.; Simmons, Andrea Megela (21 November 2016). "Variability of Rheotaxis Behaviors in Larval Bullfrogs Highlights Species Diversity in Lateral Line Function". PLOS ONE. 11 (11): e0166989. Bibcode:2016PLoSO..1166989B. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0166989. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 5117756. PMID 27870909.
  7. ^ Choi, Jongeun; Jeon, Soo; Johnson, Nicholas S; Brant, Cory O; Li, Weiming (7 November 2013). "Odor-conditioned rheotaxis of the sea lamprey: modeling, analysis and validation". Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. 8 (4): 046011. Bibcode:2013BiBi....8d6011C. doi:10.1088/1748-3182/8/4/046011. ISSN 1748-3182. PMID 24200699. S2CID 15280201.
  8. ^ Baker, Remmi; Kauffman, Joshua E.; Laskar, Abhrajit; Shklyaev, Oleg E.; Potomkin, Mykhailo; Dominguez-Rubio, Leonardo; Shum, Henry; Cruz-Rivera, Yareslie; Aranson, Igor S.; Balazs, Anna C.; Sen, Ayusman (6 June 2019). "Fight the flow: the role of shear in artificial rheotaxis for individual and collective motion". Nanoscale. 11 (22): 10944–10951. doi:10.1039/C8NR10257K. ISSN 2040-3372. PMID 31139774. S2CID 206138930.