, Volume 136, Issue 3, pp 359–364 | Cite as

Microscopic aspects of the nictitating membrane in Carcharhinidae and Sphyrnidae sharks: a preliminary study

  • Aline Nayara Poscai
  • Bianca de Sousa Rangel
  • André Luis da Silva Casas
  • Natascha Wosnick
  • Alexandre Rodrigues
  • Rose Eli Grassi Rici
  • José Roberto Kfoury Junior
Original Paper


The nictitating membrane is an anatomic structure exclusively exhibited by Carcharhiniformes, the largest order among sharks. Here we present a detailed description of morphological characteristics of the nictitating membrane through light microscopy (LM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) in the following shark species: Carcharhinus limbatus, Galeocerdo cuvier, Prionace glauca, Rhizoprionodon lalandii, R. porosus, Sphyrna lewini and S. zygaena. Differences in the microscopic aspects of dermal denticles from the species studied were observed. P. glauca, a pelagic shark, showed a well-developed protection apparatus when compared with other pelagic species, while coastal sharks showed even higher structural complexity. In the blue shark the denticles are enameled, presenting an extensive pulp cavity and a base inserted in a connective tissue. Moreover, the species exhibits the higher number of ridges (up to nine) of varied size and shape and the muscular tissue is inserted in the ventral region of the connective tissue. Dermal denticles from C. limbatus, R. lalandii, R. porosus, S. zygaena and G. cuvier exhibit up to five ridges with hexagonal ornamentations in the crown. In S. lewini and S. zygaena, the denticles are rounded shaped and glandular cells are present. The patterns observed in the present study suggest a high level of specialization and evolutionary conservation shaped by the function of the structure. In addition, we hypothesize that the morphological simplification observed in the membrane when compared to the dermal denticles from the skin, is an evolutionary trait that evolved to improve the dynamic and biomechanics of this highly mobile structure allowing this way, a rapid and efficient protection against abrasion, mainly during predation events.


Nictitating membrane Dermal denticles Requiem sharks Electron microscopy 



We would like to thank CAPES (granted ANP and NW) for the support, the postgraduate program of Department of Surgery, Faculty of the Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, University of São Paulo and the funding provided by FAPESP through contract number 2016/09095-2 (Granted to BRS).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aline Nayara Poscai
    • 1
  • Bianca de Sousa Rangel
    • 1
    • 2
  • André Luis da Silva Casas
    • 3
  • Natascha Wosnick
    • 4
  • Alexandre Rodrigues
    • 5
  • Rose Eli Grassi Rici
    • 6
  • José Roberto Kfoury Junior
    • 1
  1. 1.Setor de AnatomiaDepartamento de Cirurgia da Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia da Universidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Fisiologia, Instituto de BiociênciasUniversidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Laboratório de Biologia AnimalUniversidade Federal do AcreCruzeiro do SulBrazil
  4. 4.Departamento de Fisiologia, Setor de Ciências BiológicasUniversidade Federal do Paraná, Centro PolitécnicoCuritibaBrazil
  5. 5.Instituto de Pesca /APTA/SAA/SPSantosBrazil
  6. 6.Central de Facilidades à Pesquisa da Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia da Universidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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