[MARMAM] New publication on the anatomy and biomechanics of baleen whale feeding

Alex Werth awerth at hsc.edu
Sat Dec 8 08:14:04 PST 2018

Dear MARMAM colleagues,

On behalf of my coauthors I am pleased to announce the publication of our new paper in The Anatomical Record on the connective tissue fascia under the tongue of rorqual whales:

Alexander J. Werth, Margo A. Lillie, Marina A. Piscitelli, A. Wayne Vogl, and Robert E. Shadwick. 2018. Slick, stretchy fascia underlies the sliding tongue of rorquals. The Anatomical Record, doi:10.1002/ar.24035.

Abstract: The tongue of rorqual (balaenopterid) whales slides far down the

throat into the expanded oral pouch as an enormous mouthful of water is
engulfed during gulp feeding. As the tongue and adjacent oral floor
expands and slides caudoventrally, it glides along a more superficial (outer)
layer of ventral body wall musculature, just deep to the accordion-like ventral
throat pleats. We hypothesize that this sliding movement of adjacent
musculature is facilitated by a slick, stretchy layer of loose areolar connective
tissue that binds the muscle fibers and reduces friction: fascia. Gross
anatomical examination of the gular region of adult minke, fin, and humpback
whales confirms the presence of a discrete, three-layered sublingual
fascia interposed between adhering fasciae of the tongue and body wall.
Histological analysis of this sublingual fascia reveals collagen and elastin
fibers loosely organized in a random feltwork along with numerous fibroblasts
in a watery extracellular matrix. Biomechanical testing of tissue
samples in the field and laboratory, via machine-controlled or manual
stretching, demonstrates expansion of the sublingual fascia and its three
layers up to 250% beyond resting dimensions, with slightly more extension
observed in anteroposterior (rather than mediolateral or oblique) stretching,
and with the most superficial of the fascia’s three layers.

If you are interested please contact me for a pdf.

Best regards,

Alex Werth


Alexander J. Werth, Ph.D.

Trinkle Professor of Biology

Hampden-Sydney College

Box 162, Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943

434-223-6326, fax 434-223-6374

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