Mechanoreceptors innervating soft cuticle in the abdomen of the hermit crab, Pagurus pollicarus
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Mechanoreceptors in the soft cuticle of the 4th abdominal segment of the hermit crab, Pagurus pollicarus, that are associated with reflex activation of abdominal postural motoneuron, were studied to determine whether their properties are consistent with a feedback control of abdominal stiffness. Three classes of receptors were identified: (1) setal dome receptors, (2) hypodermal receptors, and (3) funnel-canal receptors. The hypodermal receptors, which have the largest extracellular action potentials, were selected for further study. Their axons innervate the entire ipsilateral half of a segment; receptive fields of receptors with different amplitudes show extensive overlap. They are phasic and show significant adaptation; at higher frequencies they signal displacement rather than velocity. Although they are activated by changing muscle tension, their threshold for cuticular displacement is much lower than for forces generated by postural muscles. These features suggest that they are primarily involved in signaling cuticular displacement and shearing forces as they contact the columella of the shell in which the hermit crab lives.
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