The Vomeronasal Organ of New World Monkeys (Platyrrhini)



Although all platyrrhine primates possess a vomeronasal organ (VNO), few species have been studied in detail. Here, we revisit the microanatomy of the VNO and related features in serially sectioned samples from 41 platyrrhine cadavers (14 species) of mixed age. Procedures to identify terminally differentiated vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs) via immunolabeling of olfactory marker protein (OMP) were used on selected specimens. The VNO varies from an elongated epithelial tube (e.g., Ateles fusciceps) to a dorsoventrally expanded sac (e.g., Saguinus spp.). The cartilage that surrounds the VNO is J-shaped or U-shaped in most species, and articulates with a groove on the bony palate. Preliminary results indicate a significant correlation between the length of this groove and length of the VNO neuroepithelium, indicating this feature may serve as a skeletal correlate. The VNO neuroepithelium could be identified in all adult primates except Alouatta, in which poor preservation prevented determination. The VNO of Ateles, described in detail for the first time, had several rows of VSNs and nerves in the surrounding lamina propria. Patterns of OMP-reactivity in the VNO of perinatal platyrrhines indicate that few or no terminally differentiated VSNs are present at birth, thus supporting the hypothesis that some platyrrhines may have delayed maturation of the VNO. From a functional perspective, all platyrrhines studied possess structures required for chemoreception (VSNs, vomeronasal nerves). However, some microanatomical findings, such as limited reactivity to OMP in some species, indicate that some lineages of New World monkeys may have a reduced or vestigial vomeronasal system. Anat Rec,, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.