Scaling of the first ethmoturbinal in nocturnal strepsirrhines: olfactory and respiratory surfaces

Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2007 Mar;290(3):215-37. doi: 10.1002/ar.20428.


Turbinals (scroll bones, turbinates) are projections from the lateral wall of the nasal fossa. These bones vary from simple folds to branching scrolls. Conventionally, maxilloturbinals comprise the respiratory turbinals, whereas nasoturbinals and ethmoturbinals comprise olfactory turbinals, denoting the primary type of mucosa that lines these conchae. However, the first ethmoturbinal (ETI) appears exceptional in the variability of it mucosal covering. Recently, it was suggested that the distribution of respiratory versus olfactory mucosae varies based on body size or age in strepsirrhine primates (lemurs and lorises). The present study was undertaken to determine how the rostrocaudal distribution of olfactory epithelium (OE) versus non-OE scales relative to palatal length in strepsirrhines. Serially sectioned heads of 20 strepsirrhines (10 neonates, 10 adults) were examined for presence of OE on ETI, rostral to its attachment to the nasal fossa wall (lateral root). Based on known distances between sections of ETI, the rostrocaudal length of OE was measured and compared to the length lined solely by non-OE (primarily respiratory epithelium). In 13 specimens, the total surface area of OE versus non-OE was calculated. Results show that the length of non-OE scales nearly isometrically with cranial length, while OE is more negatively allometric. In surface area, a lesser percentage of non-OE exists in smaller species than larger species and between neonates and adults. Such results are consistent with recent suggestions that the olfactory structures do not scale closely with body size, whereas respiratory structures (e.g., maxilloturbinals) may scale close to isometry. In primates and perhaps other mammals, variation in ETI morphology may reflect dual adaptations for olfaction and endothermy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cheirogaleidae / anatomy & histology
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Female
  • Galago / anatomy & histology
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Olfactory Mucosa / cytology*
  • Olfactory Mucosa / ultrastructure
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / ultrastructure
  • Strepsirhini / anatomy & histology*
  • Strepsirhini / growth & development
  • Turbinates / cytology*
  • Turbinates / ultrastructure