Date: 08 Aug 2010

Tongue Morphology in Infant and Adult Bushbabies (Otolemur spp.)

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Abstract

Lingual fungiform papillae are the only structures on the anterior two-thirds of the tongue that contain taste receptor cells and are the first gustatory structures to encounter food items. In humans, density of fungiform papillae is associated with taste sensitivity and food selection. Nonhuman primates also use the sense of taste to detect the nutritional contents of potential food items. The present study examines the ontogeny, distribution, and density of fungiform papillae in two species of greater bushbaby that differ in dietary specialization. Using light and electron microscopic methods, adult and infant cadaveric specimens (n = 4) of the frugivorous Otolemur garnettii and the exudativorous O. crassicaudatus were examined. The density of fungiform papillae was measured in an additional three adults of each species using 0.5% methylene blue. Observations by light and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) indicate that receptor pores are open in neonates. One adult O. crassicaudatus examined by SEM shows a high number of anterior fungiform papillae on which one or more open taste pores can be observed. The mean density of fungiform papillae was more than 50% greater in O. garnettii (162.4 ± 70.63/cm2) compared to that in O. crassicaudatus (101.9 ± 20.63/cm2). These results suggest that greater bushbabies may have precocious ability to detect taste stimuli, based on the presence of open taste pores at birth. The apparent difference in fungiform papillae density between species requires further exploration.