Morphology of the cutaneous poison and mucous glands in amphibians with particular emphasis on caecilians (Siphonops annulatus)

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Caecilians (order Gymnophiona) are apodan, snake-like amphibians, usually with fossorial habits, constituting one of the most unknown groups of terrestrial vertebrates. As in orders Anura (frogs, tree frogs and toads) and Caudata (salamanders and newts), the caecilian skin is rich in mucous glands, responsible for body lubrication, and poison glands, producing varied toxins used in defence against predators and microorganisms. Whereas in anurans and caudatans skin gland morphology has been well studied, caecilian poison glands remain poorly elucidated. Here we characterised the skin gland morphology of the caecilian Siphonops annulatus, emphasising the poison glands in comparison to those of anurans and salamanders. We showed that S. annulatus glands are similar to those of salamanders, consisting of several syncytial compartments full of granules composed of protein material but showing some differentiated apical compartments containing mucus. An unusual structure resembling a mucous gland is frequently observed in lateral/apical position, apparently connected to the main duct. We conclude that the morphology of skin poison glands in caecilians is more similar to salamander glands when compared to anuran glands that show a much-simplified structure.
Maurício B, Mailho-Fontana PL, Sato LA, Barbosa FF, Astray RM, Kupfer A, et al. Morphology of the Cutaneous Poison and Mucous Glands in Amphibians with Particular Emphasis on Caecilians (Siphonops annulatus). Toxins. 2021 Nov; 13(11):779. doi:10.3390/toxins13110779.
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