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Undergraduate Research Project Management System

Histology of the Bottlenose Dolphin Palate

Status Complete
Seeking Researchers No
Start Date 09/01/2006
End Date 06/30/2007
Funding Source N/A
Funding Amount
Community Partner
Related Course
Last Updated 07/05/2008 01:25AM


  David Pfeiffer

Student Researchers
  Carlene Miller


Bottlenose dolphins represent the majority of marine mammals in captivity and commonly strand along the Texas/Louisiana coastline. Cell histology and ultrastructure on cetacean palates, particularly bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) palates, have never been thoroughly investigated. Research has been reported on bottlenose dolphin tongue histology by Donaldson (1977) and tongue marginal papillae by Kastelein & Dubbeldam (1990). Additionally, the epidermis of bottlenose dolphins has been examined by Harrison & Thurley (1974) and the lingual ultrastructure of the long-finned pilot whale has been studied by Pfeiffer et al. (2001). Investigating palate histology will lead to a better understanding of the palate's surface structure, improve rehabilitation efforts, and improve treatment of injured animals. In this study, bottlenose dolphin palate histology will be studied in detail and differences between bottlenose dolphin palates and terrestrial mammal palates will be identified. The Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network has already collected and will continue to collect palate tissue samples from bottlenose dolphins that strand along the Texas/Louisiana coastline. Samples are currently housed at the University of Texas Medical Branch and will be sent to Dr. Pfeiffer's laboratory at the University of Alaska Anchorage. These tissue samples will be processed using common histology techniques to analyze palate cell and tissue structure. Histological characteristics of the bottlenose dolphin palate tissue samples will be compared to histological characteristics of terrestrial mammal palates and the limited research on marine mammal palates. Patterns in bottlenose dolphin palate histology are difficult to predict as a detailed analysis on these palates has never been done. Due to the limited information available on cetacean palates, there is reason to suspect histologically that their palate will differ from terrestrial mammals.

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