Bi-sensory striped arrays are described in owl and platypus that share some similarities with the other variant of bi-sensory striped array found in primate and carnivore striate cortex: ocular dominance columns. Like ocular dominance columns, the owl and platypus striped systems each involve two different topographic arrays that are cut into parallel stripes, and interdigitated, so that higher-order neurons can integrate across both arrays. Unlike ocular dominance stripes, which have a separate array for each eye, the striped array in the middle third of the owl tectum has a separate array for each cerebral hemisphere. Binocular neurons send outputs from both hemispheres to the striped array where they are segregated into parallel stripes according to hemisphere of origin. In platypus primary somatosensory cortex (SI), the two arrays of interdigitated stripes are derived from separate sensory systems in the bill, 40,000 electroreceptors and 60,000 mechanoreceptors. The stripes in platypus SI cortex produce bimodal electrosensory-mechanosensory neurons with specificity for the time-of-arrival difference between the two systems. This thunder-and-lightning system would allow the platypus to estimate the distance of the prey using time disparities generated at the bill between the earlier electrical wave and the later mechanical wave caused by the motion of benthic prey. The functional significance of parallel, striped arrays is not clear, even for the highly-studied ocular dominance system, but a general strategy is proposed here that is based on the detection of temporal disparities between the two arrays that can be used to estimate distance. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.