Structural organization of the toe pads in the amphibian Philautus annandalii (Boulenger, 1906)



We describe the morphology of toe pads in the Himalayan tree frog Philautus annandalii. These are expanded tips of digits and show modifications of their ventral epidermis for adhesion. The outer cells of toe pad epidermis (TPE) bear surface microstructures (0.7 × 0.2 μm), which are keratinized. Their cytoplasm contains no organelles, but pleomorphic nuclei and mucous granules (0.4–0.5 μm) that glue the keratin filaments. In the intermediate cell layer of TPE, similar keratinized microstructures as in the outer cells are present, so that when the outer layer is shed, it is ready with features for adhesion. These cells contain more keratin than the outer cells. The basal cell layer contains thin keratin bundles and usual cell organelles. The dermis contains mucous-secreting glands, whose ducts open in the outer epidermal cell layer in channels. The dorsal epidermal cells lack surface microstructures and keratin bundles. Ultrastructural features suggest that toe pads utilize the surface microstructures for adhesion aided by mucus, in which the intermediate cell layer seems to bear the shear stress generated during locomotion. Further, TPE can expand and fit into an increased contact area of the substrate. The long, surface microstructures may also help in mechanical interlocking with rough surfaces on plants.