The tongue morphology and lingual gland histochemistry of Ligurian Sea odontocetes



The morphology and histomorphology of the tongue and the histochemistry of the lingual glands of eight specimens from four species of Ligurian Sea odontocetes (Stenella coeruleoalba, Tursiops truncatus, Grampus griseus, and Ziphius cavirostris) were studied. The shape of tongues and the appearance of their dorsal surfaces differed between species. The lingual glands differed in size, distribution, and histochemistry by species. In S. coeruleoalba and G. griseus, a strong alcianophilic mucous material was detected in the lingual glands, while neutral and acidic mucous substances were observed in the most proximal secretory acini. In G. griseus, small simple alveolar apocrine glands were also found, and the duct of the serous lingual glands in Z. cavirostris is of apocrine type. Numerous mechanoreceptors were observed. Only the tongue of the young specimens showed marginal papillae: their histomorphological composition is consistent with the hypothesis that they create a tight seal between the tongue and the roof of the cavity in order to create suction. This comparative study suggests that differences in tongue morphology and in the morphology and histochemistry of lingual glands might be related to feeding habits.