, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 121-134
Date: 17 Sep 2009

Temperature response in electrosensors and thermal voltages in electrolytes

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Abstract

Temperature sensation is increasingly well understood in several model organisms. One of the most sensitive organs to temperature changes is the functional electrosensor of sharks and their relatives; its extreme thermal responsiveness, in excised preparations, has not been mechanistically described. In recent years, conflicting reports have appeared concerning the properties of a hydrogel that fills the ampullae of Lorenzini. The appearance of a thermoelectric effect in the gel (or, using different methods, a reported lack thereof) suggested a link between the exquisite electrosense and the thermal response of the electroreceptors (or, alternately, denied that link). I review available electrophysiology evidence of the organ’s temperature response, calculate a theoretical gel signal prediction using physical chemistry, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the existing gel measurements, and discuss broader implications for the ampullae and temperature sensation.