Distribution of olfactory and nonolfactory surface area in the nasal fossa of Microcebus murinus: implications for microcomputed tomography and airflow studies

Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2011 Jul;294(7):1217-25. doi: 10.1002/ar.21411. Epub 2011 May 26.


The nasal fossa of most mammals exemplifies extreme skeletal complexity. Thin scrolls of bone (turbinals) that both elaborate surface area (SA) and subdivide nasal space are used as morphological proxies for olfactory and respiratory physiology. The present study offers additional details on the nasal fossa of the adult mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), previously described by Smith and Rossie (Smith and Rossie [2008]; Anatomical Record 291:895-915). Additional, intervening histological sections of the specimen were used to map and quantify the distribution of olfactory and nonolfactory mucosa on the smaller turbinal of the frontal recess (FR; frontoturbinal) and those that occur between ethmoturbinals (ETs; interturbinals). A second adult Microcebus specimen, available as a dried skull, was scanned using microcomputed tomography (microCT) and reconstructed to infer the position of these turbinals within the nasal airway. Overall, turbinal bones comprise more than half of internal nasal SA. All ETs combined comprise about 30% of total nasal fossa SA, and contribute nearly half of all olfactory SA. Of these, the nasoturbinal (NT) is most completely covered with olfactory mucosa, whereas ET I is least covered with olfactory mucosa. The FR contributes significantly to total olfactory SA (ca. 20%). This recess and the single frontoturbinal within it lie in a more lateral pathway of airflow compared with interturbinals, which lie in more central zone just anterior to the olfactory recess of Microcebus. Variations in the turbinals and recesses that complicate central and paranasal in primates should be investigated further in light of zone-specific distributions of olfactory receptors (ORs) that differ between these regions in rodents.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cheirogaleidae / anatomy & histology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Nasal Cavity / anatomy & histology*
  • Olfactory Mucosa / anatomy & histology*
  • Olfactory Mucosa / growth & development*
  • Respiratory System / anatomy & histology
  • Respiratory System / growth & development
  • X-Ray Microtomography*