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Abstract

Salamanders in the family Plethodontidae show a unique behavior (nose-tapping) and have unique structures (nasolabial grooves) that may be used specifically to convey chemicals to the vomeronasal organ. The nasal structure of Plethodon cinereus was studied to determine if there is enhanced development of the vomeronasal organ compared with other salamander families that would correlate with use of these unique features. The vomeronasal organ in salamanders is found in a ventrolateral diverticulum of each main olfactory organ. P. cinereus has a more anteriorly placed vomeronasal organ within the diverticulum, and the posterior limit of each nasolabial groove is adjacent to the anterior limit of the vomeronasal organs. This suggests that the grooves deliver chemicals preferentially to the vomeronasal organs instead of to the main olfactory organs. In addition, the vomeronasal sensory epithelium is thickest anteriorly and is at its thinnest at about the level corresponding to the location of the vomeronasal organ in other salamander families. These adaptations suggest a specific mechanism of odorant delivery to the vomeronasal organ in plethodontid salamanders not found in other salamander families.