Electroreceptors and Other Specialized Receptors in Lower Vertrebrates

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Clusin and M. Bennett, "Calcium-activated conductance in skate electroreceptors Current clamp experiments," J. Bennett, "Calcium-activated conductance in skate electroreceptors. Voltage clamp experiments," J. Bennett, "The oscillatory responses of skate electroreceptors to small voltage stimuli, J. Bennett, "The ionic basis of oscillatory responses of skate electroreceptors," J. Flock and J. Russel, "Efferent nerve fibers: postsynaptic action on hair cells," Nature New Biol.

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Electroreceptors and Other Specialized Receptors in Lower Vertrebrates

Jacobs, "Stereocilia mediate transduction in vertebrate hair cells," Proc. USA, 76 , No. Kalmijn, "The detection of electric fields from inanimate and animate sources other than electric organs," in: Electroreceptors and Other Specialized Receptors in Lower Vertebrates, A. Fessard, ed.

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Lamb and E. Simon, "Analysis of electrical noise in turtle cones," J. London , , No. Obara and M.

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Bennett, "Mode of operation of ampullae of Lorenzini of the skate, Raja," J. Schwartz, "Voltage noise observed in rods of the turtle retina," J. Waltman, "Electrical properties and fine structure of the ampullary canals of Lorenzini," Acta Physiol. Govardovskii There are no affiliations available. Personalised recommendations. Cite article How to cite?

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ENW EndNote. Buy options. Over the years, support for this idea has emerged. Cryptochrome-based orientation has also been reported in Drosophila and cockroaches, and researchers have found evidence of magnetite-based navigation in animals from mollusks to honeybees. And there may be other components of magnetoreception still to discover, as scientists continue their search for magnetic sensory structures across the animal kingdom.

Late last year, for example, biophysicist Can Xie of Peking University in Beijing and colleagues identified a Drosophila protein, dubbed MagR, that—when bound to photosensitive Cry—has a permanent magnetic moment, the researchers reported, meaning it spontaneously aligns with magnetic fields Nat Mater , , The study was met with skepticism, however, and the results have yet to be independently verified.

In addition to mechanism, questions remain about the function of magnetoreceptive capabilities. Or, at least, nothing that has yet been recognized by researchers. The receptors are innervated by the trigeminal ganglia TG , which transmit the infrared signals to the brain.


Humans and other mammals sense external temperature with heat-sensitive nerve fibers, but pit vipers, boa constrictors, and pythons have evolved organs in their faces that the animals use to detect infrared IR energy emitted by prey and to select ecological niches. And vampire bats have IR receptors on their noses that let them home in on the most blood-laden veins in their prey.

These IR-sensing apparatuses, known as pit organs, have evolved at least twice in the snake world—once in the ancient family that includes pythons and boas family Boidae and once in the pit vipers subfamily Crotalinae , which includes rattlesnakes. Pythons and boas have three or more simple pits between scales on their upper and sometimes lower lips; each pit consists of a membrane that is lined with heat-sensitive receptors innervated by the trigeminal nerve.


Pit vipers, by contrast, typically have one large, deep pit on either side of their heads, and the structure is more complex, lined with a richly vascularized membrane covering an air-filled chamber that directs heat onto the IR-sensitive tissue. This geometry maximizes heat absorption, Julius notes, and also ensures efficient cooling of the pit, which reduces thermal afterimages. In , Julius and Elena Gracheva, now at Yale University, identified the heat-sensitive ion channel TRPA1 transient receptor potential cation channel A1 that triggers the trigeminal nerve signal in both groups of snakes Nature , The same channels in humans are activated by chemical irritants such as mustard oil or by acid, and the resulting signal is similar to those produced by wounds on the skin, Gracheva says.

In snakes, these channels have mutated to become sensitive to heat as well. Vampire bats—which, true to their name, feed on the blood of other creatures—are the only mammals known to have a highly developed infrared sense. In , Julius, Gracheva, and their colleagues identified the key heat-sensitive ion channel in vampire bats as TRPV1 Nature , More than 30 years ago biologists Peter Hartline , now of New England Biolabs in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and Eric Newman , now at the University of Minnesota, found that information from the snake pit organ activates a brain region called the optic tectum known in mammals as the superior colliculus , which is known to process visual input Science , , The pit organ appears to act like a pinhole camera for infrared light, producing an IR image, Newman says.

In recent years, evidence for electroreception has been accumulating all over the animal kingdom: in monotremes such as the platypus , crayfish, dolphins, and, most recently, bees. These bundles of sensory cells, situated at the end of jelly-filled pores in the skin, detect electric fields in the water surrounding the fish and send signals to the brain.

The sense is most frequently employed by aquatic or semi-aquatic animals to find prey in environments where other senses are less reliable—in murky or turbid water, for example, or where food can bury itself in sediment.

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Researchers have also documented other functions of electroreception. Electroreception is thought to be an ancestral trait among vertebrates that has subsequently been lost from several lineages including the amniotes—the group comprising reptiles, birds, and mammals , and then re-evolved independently at least twice in teleost fish and once in monotremes. In , researchers added cetaceans to that list, after discovering electroreception in the Guiana dolphin , a resident of murky coastal waters around South America that evolved its electroreceptors from what used to be whiskers Proc R Soc B , doi Most electroreceptors consist of modified hair cells with voltage-sensitive protein channels, arranged in bundles that activate nerves leading to the brain.

Described in by Italian anatomist Stefano Lorenzini, ampullae are extensions of the lateral line system that are present in dense clusters over the heads of cartilaginous fish such as sharks and rays. Each ampulla consists of a bundle of electrosensory cells at the end of a pore filled with a hydrogel that was recently shown to have the highest reported proton conductivity of any known biological material Sci Advances , 2:e, But pinning down how any of these receptors operate at a molecular level remains a challenge, notes Clare Baker, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge.

Electrosensitivity in these animals, as in other primitive vertebrates such as the axolotl, depends on modified hair cells that develop as part of the ancestral lateral line system and are homologous to the ampullary organs of sharks. Meanwhile, the field is continuing to uncover surprises.

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