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Toxicon. 2008 Apr;51(5):898-913. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2007.12.021. Epub 2007 Dec 28.

Oral glands in dipsadine "goo-eater" snakes: morphology and histochemistry of the infralabial glands in Atractus reticulatus, Dipsas indica, and Sibynomorphus mikanii.

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  • 1Laboratório de Biologia Celular, Instituto Butantan, Av. Vital Brazil 1500, CEP 05503-900, São Paulo, SP, Brazil.


Although snake infralabial glands are generally constituted of mucous cells, among dipsadines, they are much more developed and predominantly serous in nature, possibly due to the peculiar feeding habits of some species of this group, the "goo-eaters", which feed on soft and viscous invertebrates. We compared the morphology and histochemistry of the infralabial glands of three goo-eater species of Southeast Brazil, Atractus reticulatus, Dipsas indica and Sibynomorphus mikanii. In A. reticulatus the glands are formed by mixed acini composed of mucous and seromucous cells and in D. indica, they are composed of mucous tubules and seromucous acini. In S. mikanii the glands are organized in seromucous acini; mucous cells are restricted to the gland anterior region and to the duct lining epithelium. Ultrastructurally, secretory granule electron density varies from low to moderate, depending on their mucous or seromucous nature. The results indicate a large morphological and histochemical variation in the infralabial glands, probably reflecting differences in the secretion chemical composition and in feeding specialization among the three species. The protein content in the secretory cells can be related with the presence of toxins that can be used in chemical prey immobilization or detaching of snails from their shells.

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