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Neurobiology of Monotremes

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Neurobiology of Monotremes

Brain Evolution in Our Distant Mammalian Cousins

Edited by:
Ken Ashwell   The University of New South Wales

536 pages, 270 x 210 mm

    Hardback - December 2013
ISBN: 9780643103115 - AU $280.00

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 Neurobiology of Monotremes brings together current information on the development, structure, function and behavioural ecology of the monotremes. The monotremes are an unusual and evolutionarily important group of mammals showing striking behavioural and physiological adaptations to their niches. They are the only mammals exhibiting electroreception (in the trigeminal sensory pathways) and the echidna shows distinctive olfactory specialisations.

The authors aim to close the current gap in knowledge between the genes and developmental biology of monotremes on the one hand, and the adult structure, function and ecology of monotremes on the other. They explore how the sequence 'embryonic structure › adult structure › behaviour' is achieved in monotremes and how this differs from other mammals.

The work also combines a detailed review of the neurobiology of monotremes with photographic and diagrammatic atlases of the sectioned adult brains and peripheral nervous system of the short-beaked echidna and platypus. Pairing of a detailed review of the field with the first published brain atlases of two of the three living monotremes will allow the reader to immediately relate key points in the text to features in the atlases and will extend a universal system of brain nomenclature developed in eutherian brain atlases by G Paxinos and colleagues to monotremes.


  • Brings together current knowledge on the nervous system of monotremes, which occupy a key position in mammalian evolution
  • Explores the relationship between environment, genes, brain structure, function and behaviour
  • Includes many illustrations
  • Includes text and a glossary to explain pertinent key concepts in neuroscience for non-specialist readers

1. Classification and evolution of the monotremes
2. Behaviour and ecology of the monotremes
3. Monotreme development
4. Overview of monotreme nervous system structure and evolution
5. Peripheral nervous system, spinal cord, brainstem and cerebellum
6. Diencephalon and deep telencephalic structures
7. Cerebral cortex and claustrum/endopiriform complex
8. Visual system
9. Somato- and electrosensory systems
10. Auditory and vestibular systems
11. Chemical senses: olfactory and gustatory systems
12. The hypothalamus, neuroendocrine interface and autonomic regulation
13. Monotremes and the evolution of sleep
14. Reflections: monotreme neurobiology in context
15. Atlas and tables of peripheral nervous system anatomy
16. Atlas of the adult and developing brain and spinal cord of the short-beaked echidna
17. Atlas of the adult and developing brain of the platypus
List of abbreviations used in brain and embryo atlas plates
Index of brain and atlas plates

 The key audience is international scientists interested in mammalian evolution and comparative neuroscience. The level is suitable for students at an advanced undergraduate level, through postgraduate students of zoology, neurosciences etc, to professional biologists of all kinds.  

 Ken Ashwell has over 33 years' experience in the neurosciences. He has published over 110 papers in international refereed journals, 23 book chapters and six books. He has also published four atlases in collaboration with George Paxinos and contributed many chapters to prestigious and definitive works on the structure, function and development of the human and mouse nervous systems. He has published over 50 major works (papers, books, book chapters) on comparative neuroscience of Australasian mammals and birds; 26 of these have been on monotreme neuroscience and 26 on marsupial neuroscience.

Craig D Hardman, Department of Anatomy, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales; AM Musser, Australian Museum, Sydney; Stewart C Nicol, School of Zoology, University of Tasmania.


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