Spatial distribution of rat fungiform papillae


  • This work was supported in part by NIH Grant NS 10389.

  • A preliminary report of these findings was presented at the Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA, November, 1973.


The objective of this study was to determine the spatial distribution of fungiform papillae on the rat's tongue. Since each fungiform papilla in the rat has a single taste bud, the spatial distribution of fungiform papillae is equivalent to the location of taste buds on the anterior tongue. A mean total number of 187 fungiform papillae per tongue were found which were about equally divided between the two lateral halves of the tongue. Over 50% of the total number of fungiform papillae were located on the tongue tip for an average density of 3.4 papillae/mm2, while the dorsal surface of the tongue had an average density of 1.3 papillae/mm2 of tongue surface. Papillae were absent on the dorsal midline, but a paracentral line of papillae running from anterior to posterior was a consistent finding. Though not identical, the distribution of papillae was essentially the same on different tongues. The functional significance of the papilla distribution is not understood, but electrophysiological experiments show evidence of neural interaction of papillae which are clustered together. The distribution of papillae and the distribution of nerve fibers which innervate them must be evaluated together in order to appreciate the significance of the distribution of fungiform papillae and their associated taste bunds.