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Neurology

An ancient sensory organ in crocodilians

Waiting alligators can detect silent ripples in the water even in total darkness.

Abstract

Crocodilians hunt at night, waiting half-submerged for land-bound prey to disturb the water surface. Here I show that crocodilians have specialized sensory organs on their faces that can detect small disruptions in the surface of the surrounding water, and which are linked to a dedicated, hypertrophied nerve system. Such 'dome' pressure receptors are also evident in fossils from the Jurassic period, indicating that these semi-aquatic predators solved the problem of combining armour with tactile sensitivity many millions of years ago.

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Figure 1: Dome pressure receptors (DPRs) in crocodilians.
Figure 2

A. BRITTON

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Correspondence to Daphne Soares.

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Soares, D. An ancient sensory organ in crocodilians. Nature 417, 241–242 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/417241a

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/417241a

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