Distribution of Chemical Stimuli

  • Jelle Atema


In the study of chemoreception, one encounters two principal difficulties that are unique to chemical stimuli. Stimulus qualities (i.e., the spectrum of all stimulatory chemical compounds) are not organized in one linear dimension such as the frequency spectra of mechanical and electromagnetic stimuli; and stimulus quantities (i.e., the distribution of the stimulus in space and time) cannot be expressed easily in mathematical formulations of stimulus dispersal comparable to the wave equation for radiating light and sound sources. Instead, the chemical spectrum of qualities consists of all reactive chemical compounds in the environment organized in what could be perceived as an unknown “n-dimensional hyperspace,” and the distribution of chemical stimuli from their source of release through the environment depends on molecular diffusion and on fluid dynamics of the carrier medium. At the spatiotemporal scale of micro- to millimeters and seconds, diffusion dominates the distribution process; at various larger spatiotemporal scales, chemical stimuli are dispersed by fluid motion. This chapter will focus on the distribution of chemical stimuli and its consequences for chemoreceptive processes, such as receptor physiology and stimulus acquisition behavior.


Algal Cell Marine Bacterium Gypsy Moth Chemical Stimulus Calanoid Copepod 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jelle Atema
    • 1
  1. 1.Marine Biological LaboratoryBoston University Marine ProgramWoods HoleUSA

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