Adaptive differentiations of the skin of the head in a subterranean rodent, Spalax ehrenbergi

Gertrud Klauer, Hynek Burda, Eviatar Nevo

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The skin of macroscopically distinct regions (hairy skin, vibrissal fields, buccal ridge, and rhinarium) of the head of the blind mole-rat, Spalax ehrenbergi, was studied by routine histological methods. Few guard and several soft vellus hairs are organized into tufts that grow from a group of hair follicles localized in an invaginated compound cavity. We suggest that this hair arrangement may be a burrowing adaptation to match frictional resistance. The follicles and the compound cavity possess either well developed complex striated musculature or errector pili muscles. There are no structural specializations (sweat glands, glomus bodies) to enhance thermoregulatory (heat dissipative) capacities in the hairy skin of the head. Vibrissae penetrate the epidermal surface as single hairs. They are microscopically normally developed and arranged in vibrissal fields according to a basal mammalian pattern. Most of them are, however, relatively short and inconspicuous. The mystacial vibrissal field is horizontally divided by a prominent buccal ridge which is probably involved in bulldozing. The hairs in the ridge leave the compound cavity singularly. The follicles of guard hairs and bristles are equipped with well developed pilo-Ruffini complexes indicating that the buccal ridge may serve also as a tactile organ. The glabrous skin of the rhinarium has a highly interdigitated dermal-epidermal interface. The dermal papillae possess simple lamellated and/or simple Meissner's corpuscles and few Merkel cell-axon-complexes indicating that the skin of the rhinarium may be particularly sensitive to perception of vibrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-66
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Developmental Biology


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