1. We have developed an isolated mechanoreceptor-organ preparation in which the intact sensory structures are available for mechanical stimulation and electrical recording. The anterior lyriform slit sense organ on the patella of the spider, Cupiennius salei Keys., consists of seven or eight cuticular slits, each innervated by a pair of large bipolar sensory neurons. The neurons are fusiform, and the largest somata are < or = 120 microns long. The innervation of the organ was characterized by light microscopy of neurons backfilled with neuronal tracers. Intracellular recording was used to measure the passive and active electrical properties of the neurons, in several cases followed by identification with Lucifer yellow injection. Both neurons of each pair from one slit responded with action potentials to depolarization by a step current injection. Approximately half of the sensory neurons adapted very rapidly and generated only one or two action potentials in response to a sustained depolarizing step, while a second group produced a burst of action potentials that adapted to silence in approximately 1 s or less. Recordings from identified neuron pairs indicated that each pair consists of one rapidly adapting and one bursting neuron. Measurements of cell membrane impedances and time constants produced estimates of neuronal size that agreed with the morphological measurements. This new preparation offers the possibility of characterizing the mechanisms underlying transduction and adaptation in primary mechanosensory neurons.