Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 157, Issue 3, pp 363–373 | Cite as

Crayfish antennae as tactile organs: their mobility and the responses of their proprioceptors to displacement

  • D. C. Sandeman


  1. 1.

    The crayfishCherax destructor can direct the tips of its second antennae to any point in a large solid angle covering the area in front, above, behind and to the side of its body.

  2. 2.

    The articulations at three joints are important for the mobility of the antennae: the carpopodite/flagellar (C/F) joint, the meropodite/carpopodite (M/C) joint, and the ischiopodite/meropodite (I/M) joint.

  3. 3.

    During active movement the M/C and C/F joints articulate synchronously and about the same plane. Together these two joints allow the tip of the flagellum to be swept through nearly 180° from in front of the animal to behind it.

  4. 4.

    The I/M joint allows the distal segments to be rotated by about 160° around the long axis of the antenna.

  5. 5.

    Two chordotonal organs monitor the movements of the antenna about its transverse and longitudinal axes: the distal organ measures the displacement of the M/C and C/F joints; the proximal organ that of the I/M joint.

  6. 6.

    Extracellular recordings from the nerve bundles of the two chordotonal organs during displacement of the individual joints revealed a range of receptor types: Smaller amplitude units have higher tonic discharge rates than larger units. All units recorded were directionally selective, and responded during movement of the joint. Some units coded the change in joint position as well as the displacement velocity, others coded only the displacement velocity.

  7. 7.

    Position sensitive units changed their tonic discharge frequency by a factor of about 2 in response to a maintained change in joint position from fully flexed to fully extended or vice versa, depending on their directional properties.

  8. 8.

    Velocity sensitive units covered a wider range, their frequency of discharge typically changing from about 40 to 160 Hz for constant angular velocities between 25 and 200°/s. The discharge frequency of pure velocity detectors increased linearly in relation to the logarithmic change in displacement velocity, over the range tested.

  9. 9.

    It is proposed that the chordotonal organs and the mechanoreceptors on the flagellum together constitute the receptive input for an active touch system, capable not only of detecting the presence, but also the shape of objects in their vicinity.



Joint Position Discharge Frequency Constant Angular Velocity Nerve Bundle Displacement Velocity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


C/F joint

carpopodite/flagellar joint

M/C joint

meropodite/carpopodite joint

I/M joint

ischiopodite/meropodite joint


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. C. Sandeman
    • 1
  1. 1.School of ZoologyUniversity of New South WalesKensingtonAustralia

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