Record Details

Milewski, Antoni V.;Dierenfeld, Ellen S.
Structural and functional comparison of the proboscis between tapirs and other extant and extinct vertebrates.
Integrative zoology
Journal Article
Animals;Biological Evolution;Feeding Behavior;Feeding Behavior: physiology;Lip;Lip: anatomy & histology;Lip: physiology;Nose;Nose: anatomy & histology;Nose: physiology;Perissodactyla;Perissodactyla: anatomy & histology;Perissodactyla: physiology;Skull;Skull: anatomy & histology;Skull: physiology;Species Specificity;Terminology as Topic
Tapirs (Perissodactyla: Tapiridae) are the only living vertebrates, beyond the order Proboscidea, found to possess a true proboscis, defined as a flexible tubular extension of the joint narial and upper labial musculature that serves, at least in part, to grasp food. Tapirs show only partial homology and analogy with elephants in the narial and upper labial structures, as well as in the skull bones and teeth. However, superficially similar extensions in other extant vertebrates differ greatly in anatomy and function. Therefore, they deserve new names: prorhiscis (e.g. Mammalia: Saiga tatarica), prorhinosis (e.g. Chondrichthyes: Callorhinchus spp.), prorhynchis (e.g. Osteichthyes: Campylomormyrus spp.) and progeneiontis (e.g. Osteichthyes: Gnathonemus spp.). Among non-mammalian vertebrates, no bird or reptile is known to possess a proboscis. Among fishes, there are various extensions of the rostrum, jaws, 'nose' and 'chin' that lack the required narial involvement. The skulls of extinct mammals within (e.g. deinotheres) and beyond (e.g. astrapotheres) the Proboscidea confirm that a proboscis evolved independently in several mammalian lineages before the Pliocene. This convergence with tapirs presumably reflects, in part, the advantages of concentrating the olfactory sensor on what is, effectively, the tip of a long mobile upper lip. However, the proboscis does not appear to have arisen de novo in any vertebrate post-Pliocene, and its continued evolution has apparently depended on the further development of its length, flexibility and innervations, as epitomized by elephants.