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Abstract

The skin of primate eyelid contains three distinctive sensory nerve terminals. Small down hairs have a collar of lanceolate terminals that are formed by ramifications of the six to eight myelinated afferent fibers. Extensions of Schwann-cell cytoplasm form masses of cytoplasmic lamellae associated with these terminals. Every large hair or eyelash contains a large pilo-Ruffini as well as sparse lanceolate terminals. The eyelash Ruffini corpuscle resembles those of monkey facial guard hairs, sinus hairs, and joint capsules of the cat and pigeon. Sparse lanceolate terminals present between the Ruffini corpuscle and eyelash external root sheath resemble those of vellus hairs. On rare occasion Merkel cells are present in the hair follicle external root sheath above the sebaceous gland. Merkel touch spots, or Tastscheiben, are located between contiguous eyelashes as small rete pegs containing several Merkel cell-neurite complexes innervated by one or two myelinated afferent fibers. The function of this array of sensory terminals is presumed to represent an extensive mechanism of protection for the cornea and globe. On the basis of studies reported to date we can conclude that the Ruffini corpuscles (and related receptors) are the ubiquitous mechanoreceptors of cutaneous and musculoskeletal systems in birds as well as mammals.