, Volume 66, Issue 2, pp 370-378

Histomorphology of preorbital gland in territorial and non-territorial male blackbuck Antelope cervicapra, a critically endangered species

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Abstract

The preorbital gland is a specialized dermal gland of antelopes which plays an important role in territorial marking behavior and pheromonal communication. To our knowledge, there is little information available on the role of preorbital gland marks in Indian antelopes (blackbucks). Males are seen averting the gland during behavioural display and territorial marking but the functional aspect of this gland has not been examined. Hence, the aim of this study was to describe the histomorphology of the preorbital gland in territorial and non-territorial male blackbucks to determine its morphology and secretory function. The results showed that the preorbital gland is composed of modified sebaceous and apocrine glands. The apocrine gland is lined by simple cuboidal epithelial cells; the serous parts of the secretory products are often seen in the apical portions of the cells. The myoepithelial cells contain actin filaments lying on the basal membranes of the apocrine gland. There are some considerable histological changes in the presence of the sebaceous and apocrine glands in territorial males in comparison to non-territorial males. The following histological changes associated with occurrence of the sebaceous and apocrine glands have been observed in territorial and non-territorial male blackbucks: (1) increase of size of sebaceous and apocrine glands and (2) increase in density of sebaceous and apocrine glands in territorial males compared to non-territorial males. It is suggested that the higher development (i.e., size) and density of sebaceous and apocrine glands in territorial males could depend on hormone production (i.e., testosterone). Based on the histological observation and the role of sebaceous and apocrine glands in the preorbital gland supported by literature, it is possible to conclude that both territorial and non-territorial blackbuck males may produce pheromonal substances through preorbital gland (secretion) for olfactory communication.