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Abstract

Oral epithelium in the anterior mandibular glands region was examined in embryonic, hatchling, and mature chickens to establish the timing of morphologic events during taste bud ontogeny. Hematoxylin-and-eosin-stained sections (10 μm) from 27 Anak (broiler breed) chickens were examined serially, and buds were quantified at 16–20 days of incubation (E) and, posthatch days 1 and 50–60. Taste buds were first recognized at the beginning of E17 as small clusters of cells in the basal epithelium. Only spherical-shaped buds were observed on E17 and E18, and these spherical clusters never penetrated to the surface of the stratified epithelial layer. E19 marked a transitional stage when mature bud features began to emerge: the buds assumed a more elongate shape, several kinds of cells comprising the bud were distinguishable and the first taste pores were observed. During the ensuing embryonic days, buds continued to elongate commensurate with the deepening oral epithelium and by hatching virtually all buds opened to the oral cavity. No marked morphological changes in taste bud structure were observed on the day of hatching and at 50–60 days posthatching. Taste bud numbers increased dramatically during E17 and E18, peaked on E19, and remained relatively constant there-after. It is concluded that the morphological sequence of taste bud development in chickens is similar to that in mammals. The timing of bud ontogeny, though initiated only during the third trimester in ovo, essentially is completed by hatching, thus providing the precocial hatchling with the sensory apparatus essential for gustatory experience.