[MARMAM] Sea Otter Whisker Innervation Article

Chris Marshall marshalc at tamug.edu
Wed Oct 29 09:11:07 PDT 2014

I’d like to announce that our sea otter whisker innervation article was published today in Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.

Marshall CD, Rozas K, Kot B, Gill V. 2014. Innervation patterns of sea otter (Enhydra lutris) mystacial follicle-sinus complexes. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy 29 October 2014 doi: 10.3389/fnana.2014.00121

The PDF of the open access paper can be found here:

Please find the abstract below:

Innervation patterns of sea otter (Enhydra lutris) mystacial follicle-sinus complexes
[http://3b76aaf63d1816bb57bf-a34624e694c43cdf8b40aa048a644ca4.r96.cf2.rackcdn.com/Design/Images/newprofile_default_profileimage_new.jpg]Christopher D. Marshall<http://www.frontiersin.org/people/u/40391>1,2*, [http://3b76aaf63d1816bb57bf-a34624e694c43cdf8b40aa048a644ca4.r96.cf2.rackcdn.com/Design/Images/newprofile_default_profileimage_new.jpg] Kelly Rozas1, [http://3b76aaf63d1816bb57bf-a34624e694c43cdf8b40aa048a644ca4.r96.cf2.rackcdn.com/Design/Images/newprofile_default_profileimage_new.jpg] Brian Kot1 and [http://3b76aaf63d1816bb57bf-a34624e694c43cdf8b40aa048a644ca4.r96.cf2.rackcdn.com/Design/Images/newprofile_default_profileimage_new.jpg] Verena A. Gill3

  *   1Department of Marine Biology, Texas A&M University, Galveston, TX, USA
  *   2Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University, TX, USA
  *   3Marine Mammals Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska, USA

Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are the most recent group of mammals to return to the sea, and may exemplify divergent somatosensory tactile systems among mammals. Therefore, we quantified the mystacial vibrissal array of sea otters and histologically processed follicle-sinus complexes (F - SCs) to test the hypotheses that the number of myelinated axons per F - SC is greater than that found for terrestrial mammalian vibrissae and that their organization and microstructure converge with those of pinniped vibrissae. A mean of 120.5 vibrissae were arranged rostrally on a broad, blunt muzzle in 7–8 rows and 9–13 columns. The F-SCs of sea otters are tripartite in their organization and similar in microstructure to pinnipeds rather than terrestrial species. Each F-SC was innervated by a mean 1339 ± 408.3 axons. Innervation to the entire mystacial vibrissal array was estimated at 161,313 axons. Our data support the hypothesis that the disproportionate expansion of the coronal gyrus in somatosensory cortex of sea otters is related to the high innervation investment of the mystacial vibrissal array, and that quantifying innervation investment is a good proxy for tactile sensitivity. We predict that the tactile performance of sea otter mystacial vibrissae is comparable to that of harbor seals, sea lions and walruses.


Christopher Marshall


Christopher D. Marshall, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Department of Marine Biology, and Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
200 Seawolf Parkway
Building 3029, Room 253
Texas A&M University
Galveston, Texas 77553
Phone: (409) 740-4884
Fax: (409) 740-5001
Email: marshalc at tamug.edu<mailto:marshalc at tamug.edu>
(please note the difference in the spelling of my last name)

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things
brought together.
- Vincent van Gogh

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