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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 1998 Jul 29;353(1372):1211-9.

Some related aspects of platypus electroreception: temporal integration behaviour, electroreceptive thresholds and directionality of the bill acting as an antenna.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Linköping University, Sweden.


This paper focuses on how the electric field from the prey of the platypus is detected with respect to the questions of threshold determination and how the platypus might localize its prey. A new behaviour in response to electrical stimuli below the thresholds previously reported is presented. The platypus shows a voluntary exploratory behaviour that results from a temporal integration of a number of consecutive stimulus pulses. A theoretical analysis is given, which includes the threshold dependence on the number of receptors and temporal integration of consecutive stimuli pulses, the close relationships between electrical field decay across the bill, electroreceptive thresholds and directionality of the platypus bill acting as an antenna. It is shown that a lobe shape, similar to that which has been measured, can be obtained by combining responses in a specific way from receptors sensing the electric field decay across the bill. Two possible methods for such combinations are discussed and analysed with respect to measurements and observed behaviour of the platypus. A number of factors are described which need to be considered when electroreceptive thresholds are to be determined. It is shown that some information about the distance to the source is theoretically available from the pattern of field decay across the platypus's bill. The paper includes a comparative analysis of radar target tracking and platypus prey localization.

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