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J Anat. 2002 Jul;201(1):1-13.

Evolution of the structure and function of the vertebrate tongue.

Author information

1
Advanced Research Center, The Nippon Dental University School of Dentistry at Niigata, Japan. iwasaki@ngt.ndu.ac.jp

Abstract

Studies of the comparative morphology of the tongues of living vertebrates have revealed how variations in the morphology and function of the organ might be related to evolutional events. The tongue, which plays a very important role in food intake by vertebrates, exhibits significant morphological variations that appear to represent adaptation to the current environmental conditions of each respective habitat. This review examines the fundamental importance of morphology in the evolution of the vertebrate tongue, focusing on the origin of the tongue and on the relationship between morphology and environmental conditions. Tongues of various extant vertebrates, including those of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, were analysed in terms of gross anatomy and microanatomy by light microscopy and by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Comparisons of tongue morphology revealed a relationship between changes in the appearance of the tongue and changes in habitat, from a freshwater environment to a terrestrial environment, as well as a relationship between the extent of keratinization of the lingual epithelium and the transition from a moist or wet environment to a dry environment. The lingual epithelium of amphibians is devoid of keratinization while that of reptilians is keratinized to different extents. Reptiles live in a variety of habitats, from seawater to regions of high temperature and very high or very low humidity. Keratinization of the lingual epithelium is considered to have been acquired concomitantly with the evolution of amniotes. The variations in the extent of keratinization of the lingual epithelium, which is observed between various amniotes, appear to be secondary, reflecting the environmental conditions of different species.

PMID:
12171472
PMCID:
PMC1570891
DOI:
10.1046/j.1469-7580.2002.00073.x
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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