The vomeronasal organ of greater bushbabies (Otolemur spp.): Species, sex, and age differences

Abstract

The present study examined interspecies, intersexual, and age-related changes in size of the vomeronasal neuroepithelium (VNNE) of two species of greater bushbabies (genus Otolemur, Infraorder Lorisiformes, Suborder Strepsirrhini). Tissue blocks containing the vomeronasal organs of nine O. crassicaudatus (8 adults, 1 neonate) and ten O. garnettii (9 adults, 1 neonate) were studied by means of serial paraffin sectioning and computer-based reconstruction of VNNE volume. In addition, the immunoreactivity of the VNNE to two neuronal markers, neuron-specific beta tubulin (BT) and olfactory marker protein (OMP) was compared between species, sexes, and ages. Results indicated that a clear VNNE is present at birth in both species, and OMP immunoreactivity was verified in O. garnettii at birth. Male and female adults of both species showed OMP-immunoreactive and BT-immunoreactive neurons in the VNNE. Immunohistochemical findings indicated that all males and the youngest females had the thickest VNNE, especially at the marginal junctions with the receptor-free epithelium. Results of a 2-way Analysis of Variance (ANOVA, species x sex) revealed no significant differences in VNNE length or volume between species, but O. crassicaudatus had significantly (p < 0.05) greater palatal length. Significant (p < 0.05) differences also were found between sexes in VNNE volume, but no significant differences in palatal length or VNNE length. The distribution of VNNE volume against age indicated that the sex differences were more pronounced in O. crassicaudatus than O. garnettii. For both species and sexes, distribution of VNNE volume against age suggested an age-related reduction in volume. These findings demonstrate postnatal plasticity in VNNE size in Otolemur that is reminiscent of that found for olfactory structures in some rodents. Bushbabies or other strepsirrhine primates may offer an opportunity for further understanding of behavioral correlates of VNNE postnatal plasticity, which may represent primitive functional characteristics of the order Primates.

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Abbreviations

BT:

beta tubulin

IHC:

immunohistochemistry

OMP:

olfactory marker protein

RFE:

receptor-free epithelium

VNNE:

vomeronasal neuroepithelium

VNO:

vomeronasal organ

VRN:

vomeronasal receptor neurons

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Correspondence to Timothy D. Smith.

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Smith, T.D., Bhatnagar, K.P., Burrows, A.M. et al. The vomeronasal organ of greater bushbabies (Otolemur spp.): Species, sex, and age differences. J Neurocytol 34, 135–147 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11068-005-5053-9

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Keywords

  • Young Female
  • Neuronal Marker
  • Female Adult
  • Immunohistochemical Finding
  • Behavioral Correlate