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J Morphol. 2005 Jun;264(3):253-63.

Olfactory morphology of carcharhinid and sphyrnid sharks: does the cephalofoil confer a sensory advantage?

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Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida 33431, USA.


Many hypotheses have been advanced to explain the adaptive significance of the sphyrnid cephalofoil, including potential advantages of spacing the olfactory organs at the distal tips of the broad surface. We employed comparative morphology to test whether the sphyrnid cephalofoil provides better stereo-olfaction, increases olfactory acuity, and samples a greater volume of the medium compared to the situation in carcharhiniform sharks. The broadly spaced nares provide sphyrnid species with a significantly greater separation between the olfactory rosettes, which could lead to an enhanced ability to resolve odor gradients. In addition, most sphyrnid species possess prenarial grooves that greatly increase the volume of water sampled by the nares and thus increase the probability of odorant encounter. However, despite a much greater head width, and a significantly greater number of olfactory lamellae, scalloped hammerhead sharks do not possess a greater amount of olfactory epithelial surface area than the carcharhiniform sandbar sharks. Therefore, sphyrnid sharks might not possess any greater olfactory acuity than carcharhinids. Despite this, there are clear olfactory advantages to the cephalofoil head morphology that could have led to its evolution, persistence, and diversification. persistence, and diversification.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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