• olfaction;
  • nasal;
  • ultrastructure;
  • recessus olfactorius;
  • phylogeny


The structure of the olfactory organ in larvae and adults of the basal anuran Ascaphus truei was examined using light micrography, electron micrography, and resin casts of the nasal cavity. The larval olfactory organ consists of nonsensory anterior and posterior nasal tubes connected to a large, main olfactory cavity containing olfactory epithelium; the vomeronasal organ is a ventrolateral diverticulum of this cavity. A small patch of olfactory epithelium (the “epithelial band”) also is present in the preoral buccal cavity, anterolateral to the choana. The main olfactory epithelium and epithelial band have both microvillar and ciliated receptor cells, and both microvillar and ciliated supporting cells. The epithelial band also contains secretory ciliated supporting cells. The vomeronasal epithelium contains only microvillar receptor cells. After metamorphosis, the adult olfactory organ is divided into the three typical anuran olfactory chambers: the principal, middle, and inferior cavities. The anterior part of the principal cavity contains a “larval type” epithelium that has both microvillar and ciliated receptor cells and both microvillar and ciliated supporting cells, whereas the posterior part is lined with an “adult-type” epithelium that has only ciliated receptor cells and microvillar supporting cells. The middle cavity is nonsensory. The vomeronasal epithelium of the inferior cavity resembles that of larvae but is distinguished by a novel type of microvillar cell. The presence of two distinct types of olfactory epithelium in the principal cavity of adult A. truei is unique among previously described anuran olfactory organs. A comparative review suggests that the anterior olfactory epithelium is homologous with the “recessus olfactorius” of other anurans and with the accessory nasal cavity of pipids and functions to detect water-borne odorants. J. Morphol. 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.