Nasal airflow in the pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus) based on a combined histological, computed tomographic and computational fluid dynamics methodology [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Timothy D. Smith, Brent A. Craven, Serena M. Engel, Christopher J. Bonar, and Valerie B. DeLeon

‘Macrosmatic’ mammals have dedicated olfactory regions within their nasal cavity and segregated airstreams for olfaction and respiratory air-conditioning. Here, we examined the 3D distribution of olfactory surface area (SA) and nasal airflow patterns in the pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus), a primate with primitive nasal cavities, except for enlarged eyes that converge upon the posterodorsal nasal region. Using the head of an adult loris cadaver, we co-registered micro-computed tomography (CT) slices and histology sections to create a 3D reconstruction of the olfactory mucosa distribution. Histological sections were used to measure olfactory surface area and to annotate CT reconstructions. The loris has a complex olfactory recess (~19% of total nasal SA) with multiple olfactory turbinals. However, the first ethmoturbinal has a rostral projection that extends far anterior to the olfactory recess, lined by ~90% non-olfactory epithelium. Only one (of three) frontoturbinals bears olfactory mucosa. Computational fluid dynamics simulations of nasal airflow and odorant deposition revealed that there is some segregation of respiratory and olfactory flow in the loris nose, but that it is not as distinct as in well-studied ‘macrosmats’ (e.g. the dog). In the loris, airflow is segregated medially and laterally to vertically elongated, plate-like first ethmoturbinals. Thus, lorises may be said to have certain macrosmatic anatomical characteristics (e.g. olfactory recess), but not segregated nasal airflow patterns that are optimized for olfaction, as in canids. These results imply that a binary ‘microsmatic/macrosmatic’ dichotomy does not exist. Rather, mammals appear to exhibit complex trends with respect to specialization of the turbinals and recesses.

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