The elasmobranch spiracular organ - II. Physiological studies

Michael A. Barry, Roy L. White, Michael V.L. Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The spiracular sense organs of the little skate, Raja erinacea, and the smooth dogfish, Mustelus canis, respond to movements of the hyomandibula-cranial joint. Afferent activity was recorded from the spiracular organ nerve in isolated preparations consisting of at least part of the cranium, the hyomandibula, and the spiracular organ and nerve. Afferents are excited by hyomandibular flexion at its joint with the cranium. Single unit recordings in the little skate revealed a single class of units that were slowly adapting, and had a regular firing pattern. Single unit firing rate increased up to about 70 spikes/s during hyomandibular flexion from a spontaneous rate at rest of 15-20 spikes/s, and could often be silenced by hyomandibular extension. The direction of excitation is consistent with the orientation of the hair cell ciliary bundles observed in morphological studies (Barry et al. 1988). Local deformations of the cupula are sufficient to excite or inhibit primary afferent firing, and volume changes in the spiracular organ as a whole are not necessary. The spiracular organs are relatively insensitive to electrical stimuli, vibration, or water movement. In conclusion, the spiracular organ functions as a sensitive joint receptor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-98
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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