Unusual labial glands in snakes of the genus Geophis Wagler, 1830 (Serpentes: Dipsadinae)



Geophis belongs to the goo-eating dipsadine assemblage of snakes that are known to feed exclusively on earthworms, snails, and slugs. Although the unusual feeding strategies of the goo-eating dipsadines are well known (but poorly documented), little attention has been paid to their internal anatomy. Here, we describe a new and noteworthy morphological and histochemical condition of the infralabial glands in three species of Geophis (G. brachycephalus, G. nasalis and G. semidoliatus), all earthworm feeders. Their infralabial glands are constituted of two distinct parts: an anterolateral portion composed of mucous and seromucous cells that stretches from the tip of the dentary to the corner of the mouth, and a tubular posteromedial portion that is exclusively seromucous. The anterolateral portion receives fibers of the levator anguli oris muscle that attaches on its posterodorsal extremity while the posteromedial portion extends posteriorly to the corner of the mouth where it receives fibers of the adductor mandibulae externus medialis muscle. Furthermore, the posteromedial portion of the infralabial gland is constituted by large acini filled with secretion that is periodic acid-Schiff positive. These acini release their secretion directly into a large lumen located in the middle of the glandular portion. In the three species examined, the supralabial glands show a traditional configuration, being constituted of mucous and seromucous cells and retaining an enlarged part in its caudal region that resembles a Duvernoy's gland. The presence in Geophis of an expanded lumen in part of the infralabial gland that is compressed by an adjacent muscle suggests a more specialized role for the secretion produced by these glands that may not be related to envenomation but rather to prey transport and mucus control. J. Morphol. 275:87–99, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.