The parotoid glands of toads (Bufonidae) consist of large aggregations of granular glands located between the otic region of the skull and the scapular region. To determine the circulatory pattern of these glands, we perfused the vascular systems of Bufo alvarius, B. marinus, B. terrestris, and B. valliceps with either India ink or Microfil, a fine latex. The perfused glands were studied by gross dissection, microscopic examination, and histology. The vascular patterns of the parotoid glands were compared to the arrangement of vessels in the dorsal skin of Rana sphenocephala (Ranidae), a frog that lacks parotoid glands. The parotoid glands of the four species of toads are supplied with blood by the lateral and dorsal cutaneous arteries and are drained by one or more branches of the internal jugular vein. The dorsal cutaneous artery supplies most of the blood to the parotoid glands in B. terrestris and B. valliceps. In B. alvarius and B. marinus, both the lateral and dorsal cutaneous arteries serve major roles in the blood supply of the glands. These patterns of blood flow have not been described previously for parotoid glands and conflict with earlier accounts for B. alvarius and B. marinus. The arteries and veins associated with the parotoid glands of toads are present in R. sphenocephala, but are arranged differently. In R. sphenocephala, the lateral cutaneous artery supplies the dorsal and lateral skin posterior to the shoulder region, whereas the dorsal cutaneous artery supplies the skin of the shoulder region. In toads, both the lateral and dorsal cutaneous arteries supply the skin of the shoulder region and ramify into subcutaneous capillaries that surround the secretory units of the parotoid glands. Extensive vasculature presumably is important for delivering cholesterol and other precursor molecules to the parotoid glands, where those compounds are converted into toxins.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.