, Volume 192, Issue 5, pp 439-448
Date: 01 Feb 2006

Specializations in the lumbosacral vertebral canal and spinal cord of birds: evidence of a function as a sense organ which is involved in the control of walking

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Birds are bipedal animals with a center of gravity rostral to the insertion of the hindlimbs. This imposes special demands on keeping balance when moving on the ground. Recently, specializations in the lumbosacral region have been suggested to function as a sense organ of equilibrium which is involved in the control of walking. Morphological, electrophysiological, behavioral and embryological evidence for such a function is reviewed. Birds have two nearly independent kinds of locomotion and it is suggested that two different sense organs play an important role in their respective control: the vestibular organ during flight and the lumbosacral system during walking.