Physiology of an Infrared Receptor: The Facial Pit of Pit Vipers

  • Theodore H. Bullock
  • Raymond B. Cowles


Noble and Schmidt (1) in 1937 showed that the sense organ in the facial pit of blindfolded crotalidsrattlesnakes, copperheads, and moccasins—mediates the ability to strike correctly at moving objects such as a dead rat or a cloth-wrapped light bulb and to distinguish between warm and cold ones. They attempted to describe its sensitivity in terms of the reading of a mercury thermometer in the air at the position of the snake's head. However, it seems indicated by their conditions that radiant energy was the effective stimulus. We have undertaken to find out what can be learned of the function of this organ by recording activity from its nerves. The present paper is a preliminary report based on multi-unit analysis.


Receptive Field Radiant Energy Mercury Thermometer Rotational Energy Level Sudden Temperature Change 
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    Randoll, II. 51., et al. Infrared Determination of Organic Structures. New York: Van Nostrand (19-19).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore H. Bullock
    • 1
  • Raymond B. Cowles
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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