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Taste buds on the lips and mouth of some blenniid and gobiid fishes: comparative distribution and morphology

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Analysis of taste buds (TB) on the lips and oropharyngeal cavity in several species of gobies (Gobiidae) and blennies (Blenniidae) from the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Seychelles, revealed three types of these organs: types I and II, which protrude above the surrounding epithelium on lobules of various forms, and type III, which terminate on the level of the epithelium. These TB are composed of either light or dark sensory cells with apical microvillar extensions, and of basal cells situated at the TB base. Synaptic junctions occur between the TB cells and the sub‐epithelial sensory nerves. Numerical distribution and morphology of TB on the lips and in the oral cavity of the species studied revealed patterns that are specific on both species and family levels. In most of the gobies the lips, jaws and oral breathing valves are usually covered by numerous lobules, each of which bears papillae with two to seven type I and type II TB, reaching a total of up to 7500 buds on the lips and in the oropharyngeal cavity in these fishes. The number of TB increases with growth (age) of the fish, and the combined and total sensory area of TB in an adult fish can reach up to 80 000 μm2. In contrast, in blennies the anterior region of the oral cavity is seldom lobulated, with far fewer TB; the majority of TB are found in the more posterior region. It is postulated that these differences in TB density and location between gobies and blennies are connected to differences in foraging strategies and diet, and may represent ecomorphological adaptations.
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Keywords: dentition; gobies; lips; oropharyngeal cavity; taste buds;  blennies

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Department of Zoology and Laboratory for Electron Microscopy, George S. Wise, Faculty of Life Sciences, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv 69978, Israel

Publication date: 2004-09-01

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