The Recessus Olfactorius: A Cryptic Olfactory Organ of Anuran Amphibians

  • Christine Nowack
  • Sabrina Jordan
  • Carolin Wittmer


The recessus olfactorius is a presumably olfactory structure found on the rostral floor of the main nasal cavity of many anuran amphibians. Nevertheless, it has rarely been investigated or even recognized in the past. The aim of the present study was to broaden the knowledge regarding this enigmatic sensory organ. Therefore, we examined the nasal epithelia of the cane toad Bufo marinus and the fire-bellied toad Bombina orientalis, using histology, scanning electron microscopy and lectin histochemistry.

Histologically, the recessus olfactorius largely resembles a typical pseudostratified olfactory epithelium. However, we found significant differences when comparing the recessus olfactorius with the main olfactory organ and the vomeronasal organ. The surface differentiations of the recessus olfactorius can be assigned to four different cell types: sensory cells covered with either cilia located on protruding knobs or with long microvilli, and supporting cells bearing either short microvilli or cilia without any surface elevation. Additionally, the lectin binding patterns indicate the presence of a unique mucous constitution of the recessus olfactorius.

Taken together our results strongly support the idea, that the recessus olfactorius has a discrete olfactory function. Furthermore, a possible homology between the recessus olfactorius and the middle chamber epithelium of clawed frogs like Xenopus laevis is discussed.


Supporting Cell Olfactory Epithelium Sensory Epithelium Cane Toad Olfactory Receptor Neuron 
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The authors would like to sincerely thank Harald Rühling, Julia Schulze, and Andreas Arendt for their very helpful technical support. Parts of this research were supported by the Zentrale Forschungsförderung (ZFF) of the University of Kassel (grant number 1415, P/249).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Nowack
    • 1
  • Sabrina Jordan
    • 1
  • Carolin Wittmer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Zoology/Developmental BiologyUniversity of Kassel, WG Functional Vertebrate AnatomyKasselGermany

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