Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Oct 14;111(41):14941-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1413656111. Epub 2014 Sep 22.

Neuronal mechanism for acute mechanosensitivity in tactile-foraging waterfowl.

Author information

  • 1Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology.
  • 2Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale Program in Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair.
  • 3Department of Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520.
  • 4Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale Program in Cellular Neuroscience, Neurodegeneration and Repair,
  • 5Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology,


Relying almost exclusively on their acute sense of touch, tactile-foraging birds can feed in murky water, but the cellular mechanism is unknown. Mechanical stimuli activate specialized cutaneous end organs in the bill, innervated by trigeminal afferents. We report that trigeminal ganglia (TG) of domestic and wild tactile-foraging ducks exhibit numerical expansion of large-diameter mechanoreceptive neurons expressing the mechano-gated ion channel Piezo2. These features are not found in visually foraging birds. Moreover, in the duck, the expansion of mechanoreceptors occurs at the expense of thermosensors. Direct mechanical stimulation of duck TG neurons evokes high-amplitude depolarizing current with a low threshold of activation, high signal amplification gain, and slow kinetics of inactivation. Together, these factors contribute to efficient conversion of light mechanical stimuli into neuronal excitation. Our results reveal an evolutionary strategy to hone tactile perception in vertebrates at the level of primary afferents.


Piezo2; TRPM8; TRPV1; mechanotransduction

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center