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Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research

versão On-line ISSN 2219-0635
versão impressa ISSN 0030-2465

Onderstepoort j. vet. res. vol.76 no.3 Pretoria  2009




Morphology of the tongue of the emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae). I. Gross anatomical features and topography



M.R. Crole; J.T. Soley

Department of Anatomy and Physiology, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort, 0110 South Africa




Despite numerous papers addressing the topic, the gross morphology of the ratite tongue and more specifically that of the emu, has been superficially or poorly described. This paper presents the first definitive macroscopic description of the emu tongue and reviews, consolidates and compares the scattered information on the gross morphology of the ratite tongue available in the literature. Twenty-three heads obtained from birds at slaughter were used for this study. Specimens were fixed in 10 % neutral buffered formalin, rinsed and the gross anatomy described. The emu tongue is divided into a body and a root. The body is triangular, dorsoventrally flattened, pigmented and displays caudally directed lingual papillae on both the lateral and caudal margins. The root, a more conspicuous structure in comparison to other ratites, is triangular, with a raised bulbous component folding over the rostral part of the laryngeal fissure. Following the general trend in ratites, the emu tongue is greatly reduced in comparison to the bill length and is specifically adapted for swallowing during the cranioinertial method of feeding employed by palaeognaths. This study revealed that it is not only the shape of the tongue that differs between ratites, as previously reported, but also its colour, appearance of its margins and root, and its length in comparison to the bill, and the shape of the paraglossum.

Keywords: Dromaius novaehollandiae, emu, gross morphology, ratite, tongue



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Accepted for publication 4 March 2009-Editor



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