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Bats have sensory hairs on wings (free pdf)

Ben Creisler

A new article that may be of interest (in open access). (Did
pterosaurs have analogous sensory wing hairs?) :

Kara L. Marshall, Mohit Chadha, Laura A. deSouza, Susanne J.
Sterbing-D’Angelo, Cynthia F. Moss & Ellen A. Lumpkin (2015)
Somatosensory Substrates of Flight Control in Bats.
Cell Reports (advance online publication)


Segmental organization of wing innervation differs from known
vertebrate forelimbs.
The bat wing has an atypical dermatome map that can be explained by
its ontogeny.
Bat wings are equipped with an unusual repertoire of somatosensory receptors.
Sparse cortical coding represents inputs from biological airflow and
touch sensors.


Flight maneuvers require rapid sensory integration to generate
adaptive motor output. Bats achieve remarkable agility with modified
forelimbs that serve as airfoils while retaining capacity for object
manipulation. Wing sensory inputs provide behaviorally relevant
information to guide flight; however, components of wing sensory-motor
circuits have not been analyzed. Here, we elucidate the organization
of wing innervation in an insectivore, the big brown bat, Eptesicus
fuscus. We demonstrate that wing sensory innervation differs from
other vertebrate forelimbs, revealing a peripheral basis for the
atypical topographic organization reported for bat somatosensory
nuclei. Furthermore, the wing is innervated by an unusual complement
of sensory neurons poised to report airflow and touch. Finally, we
report that cortical neurons encode tactile and airflow inputs with
sparse activity patterns. Together, our findings identify neural
substrates of somatosensation in the bat wing and imply that
evolutionary pressures giving rise to mammalian flight led to unusual
sensorimotor projections.

News release with video: