Diversity of the vomeronasal system in mammals: The singularities of the sheep model

Authors

  • Ignacio Salazar,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anatomy and Animal Production, Unit of Anatomy and Embryology, Faculty of Veterinary, University of Santiago de Compostela, 27002 Lugo, Spain
    • Department of Anatomy and Animal Production, Unit of Anatomy and Embryology, Faculty of Veterinary, University of Santiago de Compostela, 27002 Lugo, Spain
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  • Pablo Sanchez Quinteiro,

    1. Department of Anatomy and Animal Production, Unit of Anatomy and Embryology, Faculty of Veterinary, University of Santiago de Compostela, 27002 Lugo, Spain
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  • Nuria Alemañ,

    1. Department of Anatomy and Animal Production, Unit of Anatomy and Embryology, Faculty of Veterinary, University of Santiago de Compostela, 27002 Lugo, Spain
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  • Jose Manuel Cifuentes,

    1. Department of Anatomy and Animal Production, Unit of Anatomy and Embryology, Faculty of Veterinary, University of Santiago de Compostela, 27002 Lugo, Spain
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  • Patricia Fernandez Troconiz

    1. Department of Anatomy and Animal Production, Unit of Anatomy and Embryology, Faculty of Veterinary, University of Santiago de Compostela, 27002 Lugo, Spain
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Abstract

The enormous morphological diversity and heterogeneity of the vomeronasal system (VNS) in mammals -as well as its complete absence in some cases- complicates the extrapolation of data from one species to another, making any physiological and functional conclusions valid for the whole Mammalian Class difficult and risky to draw. Some highly-evolved macrosmatic mammals, like sheep, have been previously used in interesting behavioral studies concerning the main and accessory olfactory systems. However, in this species, certain crucial morphological peculiarities have not until now been considered. Following histological, histochemical and immunohistochemical procedures, we have studied the vomeronasal organ (VNO) and the accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) of adult sheep. We have determined: (1) that all structures which classically define the VNO in mammals are present and well developed, providing the morphological basis for functional activity. (2) that, conversely, there is only a scant population of scattered mitral/tufted cells. One morphological consequence of both details is that the strata of the AOB in adult sheep are not as sharply defined as in other species; moreover, the small number of the mitral/tufted cells in the AOB may imply that the VNS of adult sheep is not capable of functioning in the way a well-developed VNS does in other species. (3) the zone to zone projection from the apical and basal sensory epithelium of the VNO to the anterior and posterior part of the AOB, respectively, typical in rodents, lagomorphs and marsupials, is not present in adult sheep. Microsc. Res. Tech., 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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