Original Research

Morphology of the tongue of the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). II. Histological features

M.R. Crole, J.T. Soley
Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research | Vol 76, No 4 | a18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ojvr.v76i4.18 | © 2009 M.R. Crole, J.T. Soley | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 09 September 2009 | Published: 09 September 2009

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M.R. Crole,
J.T. Soley,

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Although a number of brief, fragmented descriptions have been provided on the gross morphology of the ratite tongue, very few studies have documented the histological structure of this organ. This paper presents the first definitive histological description of the emu tongue and reviews, consolidates and compares the scattered information on the histology of the ratite tongue available in the literature. Five tongues were removed from heads obtained from birds at slaughter and fixed in 10 % neutral buffered formalin. Appropriate longitudinal and transverse segments were removed, routinely processed for light microscopy, and sections examined after staining with H & E and PAS. The entire tongue (body and root) is invested by a non-keratinized stratified squamous epithelium. The supporting connective tissue of the tongue dorsum displays only large, simple branched tubular mucussecreting glands, whereas the caudal tongue body ventrum and tongue root, in addition to these glands, also exhibits small, simple tubular mucus-secreting glands. Herbst corpuscles are associated with the large, simple branched glands. Lymphoid tissue is restricted to the tongue ventrum and is particularly obvious at the junction of the ventral tongue body and frenulum where a large aggregation of diffuse lymphoid tissue, with nodular tissue proximally, was consistently observed. A structure resembling a taste bud was located in the epithelium on the caudal extremity of the tongue root of one bird. This is the first reported observation of taste buds in ratites. Forming the core of the tongue body is the cartilaginous paraglossum lying dorsal to the partially ossified rostral projection of the basihyale. The histological features of the emu tongue are generally similar to those described for the greater rhea and ostrich, except that taste buds were not identified in these species. The results would suggest that the emu tongue functions as a sensory organ, both for taste and touch (by virtue of taste receptors and Herbst corpuscles, respectively), as well as fulfilling an immunological function.


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