Did you know that a duck’s bill is highly sensitive to light touch but far less sensitive to other factors, such as temperature? This makes them an ideal research model over rodents in studies for chronic pain and light touch sensitivity disorders like mechanical allodynia, where a light touch feels incredibly painful.
Scientists are studying neurons extending for the trigeminal ganglion, a cluster of sensory neurons located in the brain. Most other birds and mammals use this cluster for temperature or pain but ducks center it on light touch sensation. In fact the same neurons in ducks showed a much stronger response to light touch than the same neurons in other mammals and birds.
The next step is molecular by altering amino acid growth in duck eggs so researchers can study what proteins are involved in making nerve cells so sensitive and eventually point to the human equivalent. Click below to learn more on how ducks are “fitting the bill” for sensory and pain research.