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Comparison of the oropharyngeal cavity in the Starksiini (Teleostei: Blenniiformes: Labrisomidae): Taste buds and teeth, including a comparison with closely-related genera



The present study describes the distribution of taste buds and teeth in the oropharyngeal cavity of 13 species of adult (18–60 mm SL) Starksiini fishes inhabiting subtidal waters of the Neotropical region. Four types of taste buds described previously in other fish groups were observed within the oropharyngeal cavity, of which type I, situated on prominent protruding papillae, is the most common. The number of taste buds in this cavity varies considerably, ranging from ca. 202 in Starksia lepicoelia to ca. 770 in S. sluiteri. In all the studied species, taste buds are more numerous on the posterior (160–396) than on the anterior (42–294) part of the oropharyngeal cavity. The presence of different numbers of taste buds in different Starksiini species of the same standard length suggests that numbers of taste buds are not directly correlated with size and may be species-specific. Teeth are found on the premaxilla, dentary, vomer, palatine (in some species) and the upper and lower pharyngeal jaws (third pharyngobranchials and fifth ceratobranchials, respectively); the form and number of teeth and taste buds on each of these sites differs among the various species of Starksiini and between them and closely related species of the labrisomid tribes Labrisomini, Mnierpini, and Paraclinini. The results thus suggest potential systematic value in certain features of the oropharyngeal cavity for blenniiform fishes. It is also shown that benthic-feeding omnivorous fishes have higher densities of taste buds than piscivorous fishes. A possible correlation among numbers of taste buds, their positions in the oropharyngeal cavity, and other parameters is discussed. J. Morphol., 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.