General morphology of the oral cavity of the Nile crocodile, Crocodylus niloticus (Laurenti, 1768). II. The tongue

Onderstepoort J Vet Res. 2004 Dec;71(4):263-77. doi: 10.4102/ojvr.v71i4.230.


The heads of nine 2.5 to 3-year-old Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) were obtained from a commercial farm where crocodiles are raised for their skins and meat. The animals from which these specimens were obtained appeared clinically healthy at the time they were slaughtered. A description of the macroscopic and microscopic features of the tongue of the Nile crocodile is presented and the results are compared with published information on this species and other Crocodylia. The histological features are supplemented by information supplied by scanning electron microscopy. Macroscopic features of interest were the dome shaped structures grouped in a triangular formation on the posterior two-thirds of the dorsum of the tongue. These structures were identified by light microscopy to contain well-developed branched, coiled tubular glands and associated lymphoid tissue. Other histological features included a lightly keratinised stratified squamous surface epithelium supported by a thick layer of irregular dense fibrous connective tissue. Deep to this region was a clearly demarcated adipose tissue core with a dense mass of striated lingual musculature. Localised thickenings were present in the epithelium which were associated with ellipsoid intra-epithelial structures resembling taste buds.

MeSH terms

  • Alligators and Crocodiles / anatomy & histology*
  • Animals
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning / methods
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning / veterinary
  • Tongue / anatomy & histology*
  • Tongue / ultrastructure