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Microsc Res Tech. 1998 Dec 15;43(6):476-99.

Structure and diversity in mammalian accessory olfactory bulb.

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1
Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801, USA. meisami@uiuc.edu

Abstract

The accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) is the first neural integrative center for the olfactory-like vomeronasal sensory system. In this article, we first briefly present an overview of vomeronasal system organization and review the history of the discovery of mammalian AOB. Next, we briefly review the evolution of the vomeronasal system in vertebrates, in particular the reptiles. Following these introductory aspects, the structure of the rodent AOB, as typical of the well-developed mammalian AOB, is presented, detailing laminar organization and cell types as well as aspects of the homology with the main olfactory bulb. Then, the evolutionary origin and diversity of the AOB in mammalian orders and species is discussed, describing structural, phylogenetic, and species-specific variation in the AOB location, shape, and size and morphologic differentiation and development. The AOB is believed to be absent in fishes but present in terrestrial tetrapods including amphibians; among the reptiles AOB is absent in crocodiles, present in turtles, snakes, and some lizards where it may be as large or larger than the main bulb. The AOB is absent in bird and in the aquatic mammals (whales, porpoises, manatees). Among other mammals, AOB is present in the monotremes and marsupials, edentates, and in the majority of the placental mammals like carnivores, herbivores, as well as rodents and lagomorphs. Most bat species do not have an AOB and among those where one is found, it shows marked variation in size and morphologic development. Among insectivores and primates, AOB shows marked variation in occurrence, size, and morphologic development. It is small in shrews and moles, large in hedgehogs and prosimians; AOB continues to persist in New World monkeys but is not found in the adults of the higher primates such as the Old World monkeys, apes, and humans. In many species where AOB is absent in the adult, it often develops in the embryo and fetus but regresses in later stages of development. Finally, new areas in vomeronasal system research such as the diversity of receptor molecules and the regional variation in receptor neuron type as well as in the output neurons of the AOB and their projection pathways are briefly discussed. In view of the pronounced diversity of size, morphologic differentiation, and phylogenetic development, the need to explore new functions for the vomeronasal system in areas other than sexual and reproductive behaviors is emphasized.

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