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Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2013 Dec;296(12):1881-94. doi: 10.1002/ar.22828.

The vomeronasal complex of nocturnal strepsirhines and implications for the ancestral condition in primates.

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  • 1Department of Anthropology, The Graduate Center at the City University of New York, New York, 10016; New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology, New York, New York.


This study investigates the vomeronasal organ in extant nocturnal strepsirhines as a model for ancestral primates. Cadaveric samples from 10 strepsirhine species, ranging from fetal to adult ages, were studied histologically. Dimensions of structures in the vomeronasal complex, such as the vomeronasal neuroepithelium (VNNE) and vomeronasal cartilage (VNC) were measured in serial sections and selected specimens were studied immunohistochemically to determine physiological aspects of the vomeronasal sensory neurons (VSNs). Osteological features corresponding to vomeronasal structures were studied histologically and related to 3-D CT reconstructions. The VNC consistently rests in a depression on the palatal portion of the maxilla, which we refer to as the vomeronasal groove (VNG). Most age comparisons indicate that in adults VNNE is about twice the length compared with perinatal animals. In VNNE volume, adults are 2- to 3-fold larger compared with perinatal specimens. Across ages, a strong linear relationship exists between VNNE dimensions and body length, mass, and midfacial length. Results indicate that the VNNE of nocturnal strepsirhines is neurogenic postnatally based on GAP43 expression. In addition, based on Olfactory Marker Protein expression, terminally differentiated VSNs are present in the VNNE. Therefore, nocturnal strepsirhines have basic similarities to rodents in growth and maturational characteristics of VSNs. These results indicate that a functional vomeronasal system is likely present in all nocturnal strepsirhines. Finally, given that osteological features such as the VNG are visible on midfacial bones, primate fossils can be assessed to determine whether primate ancestors possessed a vomeronasal complex morphologically similar to that of modern nocturnal strepsirhines.

Copyright © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


Strepsirhini; accessory olfactory system; olfaction; primate evolution; vomeronasal organ

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