Thermoception  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Thermoception or thermoreception is the sense by which an organism perceives temperature. The details of how temperature receptors work are still being investigated. Ciliopathy is associated with decreased ability to sense heat, thus cilia may aid in the process. Transient receptor potential channels (TRP channels) are believed to play a role in many species in sensation of hot, cold, and pain. Mammals have at least two types of sensor: those that detect heat (i.e., temperatures above body temperature) and those that detect cold (i.e. temperatures below body temperature).

A particularly specialized form of thermoception is used by Crotalinae (pit viper) and Boidae (boa) snakes, which can effectively see the infrared radiation emitted by hot objects. The snake's face has a pair of holes, or pits, lined with temperature sensors. The sensors indirectly detect infrared radiation by its heating effect on the skin inside the pit. They can work out which part of the pit is hottest, and therefore the direction of the heat source, which could be a warm-blooded prey animal. By combining information from both pits, the snake can also estimate the distance of the object.Template:Citation needed

The common vampire bat may also have specialized infrared sensors on its nose (see). A nucleus has been found in the brain of vampire bats that has a similar position and has similar histology to the infrared nucleus of infrared sensitive snakes.


Other animals with specialized heat detectors are forest fire seeking beetles (Melanophila acuminata), which lay their eggs in conifers freshly killed by forest fires. Darkly pigmented butterflies Pachliopta aristolochiae and Troides rhadamathus use specialized heat detectors to avoid damage while basking. The blood sucking bugs Triatoma infestans may also have a specialised thermoception organ.Template:Citation needed

In humans, temperature sensation from thermoreceptors enters the spinal cord along the axons of Lissauer's tract that synapse on second order neurons in grey matter of the dorsal horn. The axons of these second order neurons then decussate, joining the spinothalamic tract as they ascend to neurons in the ventral posterolateral nucleus of the thalamus.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Thermoception" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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