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Crocodilian skin reveals sensors found in no other vertebrate

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Crocodilians have sensors in their skin found in no other vertebrate that are organs that allow a superior sensitivity to touch, heat, cold, and the chemicals in their environment according to research conducted by Professor Michel Milinkovitch and colleagues from the University of Geneva that was published in the journal EvoDevo on July 2, 2013.

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Previous research has never fully defined the origin or function of the sensors known as dome pressure receptors or integumentary sensory organs in crocodilians. Crocodilians include crocodiles, gharials, alligators, and caimans.

All crocodilians have tough epidermal scales consisting of keratin and bony plates that provide protection. The scales have sensors known as dome pressure receptors that are present when the animals are born and develop while the crocodilians are embryos. Scales develop as the animals grow to protect the dome pressure receptors. Some crocodilians have dome pressure receptors only on their head and some have them all over their bodies.

Integumentary sensory organs allow the animals to sense mechanical stimuli like water movement, heat, cold, chemical stimuli, and provide the sense of touch. Integumentary sensory organs do not sense salinity in those crocodilians living in salt water.

Dome pressure receptors allow crocodilians to sense pressure waves in water and find prey in the dark, regulate their body temperature, and find suitable habitats. No other vertebrate has integumentary sensory organs.

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