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Sensory Evolution on the ThresholdAdaptations in Secondarily Aquatic Vertebrates$
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J. G. M. Thewissen

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780520252783

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520252783.001.0001

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Mechanoreception in Secondarily Aquatic Vertebrates

Mechanoreception in Secondarily Aquatic Vertebrates

(p.294) (p.295) 18 Mechanoreception in Secondarily Aquatic Vertebrates
Sensory Evolution on the Threshold

Guido Dehnhardt

Björn Mauck

University of California Press

This chapter discusses the structure and function of mechanosensory systems, particularly hydrodynamic sensory systems, in secondarily aquatic tetrapods. It suggests that secondarily aquatic tetrapods are sensitive to tactile information and are actively using mechanoreception for seeking information about their environment. It also describes how they use specialized tactile organs for hydrodynamic reception. These tactile organs include the touch papillae in reptiles to sense prey fish movements; the bill-tip organ of aquatic birds to detect buried prey in wet sediments; push rods in aquatic platypus, primarily associated with electroreception; and Eimer's organs in the skin of the snout of the star-nosed mole for the haptic detection and identification of prey systems. It also demonstrates the hydrodynamic receptor function of vibrissae found in aquatic mammals. Vibrissae of harbor seals, for example, respond to vibrations and are essential for detecting and tracking hydrodynamic trails.

Keywords:   mechanosensory systems, hydrodynamic sensory systems, mechanoreception, touch papillae, bill-tip organ, push rods, Eimer's organs, vibrissae, hydrodynamic receptor, hydrodynamic trails

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