Morphological evidence for the sensitivity of the ear canal of odontocetes as shown by immunohistochemistry and transmission electron microscopy
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The function of the external ear canal in cetaceans is still under debate and its morphology is largely unknown. Immunohistochemical (IHC) analyses using antibodies specific for nervous tissue (anti-S100, anti-NSE, anti-NF, and anti-PGP 9.5), together with transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and various histological techniques, were carried out to investigate the peripheral nervous system of the ear canals of several species of toothed whales and terrestrial Cetartiodactyla. This study highlights the innervation of the ear canal with the presence of lamellar corpuscles over its entire course, and their absence in all studied terrestrial mammals. Each corpuscle consisted of a central axon, surrounded by lamellae of Schwann receptor cells, surrounded by a thin cellular layer, as shown by IHC and TEM. These findings indicate that the corpuscles are mechanoreceptors that resemble the inner core of Pacinian corpuscles without capsule or outer core, and were labelled as simple lamellar corpuscles. They form part of a sensory system that may represent a unique phylogenetic feature of cetaceans, and an evolutionary adaptation to life in the marine environment. Although the exact function of the ear canal is not fully clear, we provide essential knowledge and a preliminary hypothetical deviation on its function as a unique sensory organ.
CitationDe Vreese, S. [et al.]. Morphological evidence for the sensitivity of the ear canal of odontocetes as shown by immunohistochemistry and transmission electron microscopy. "Scientific reports", 6 Març 2020, vol. 10, p. 1-17.
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