The morphology of the intrinsic tongue musculature in snakes (Reptilia, ophidia): Functional and phylogenetic implications.
Tongue musculature in 24 genera of snakes was examined histologically. In all snakes, the tongue is composed of a few main groups of muscles. The M. hyoglossus is a paired bundle in the center of the tongue. The posterior regions of the tongue possess musculature that surrounds these bundles and is responsible for protrusion. Anterior tongue regions contain hyoglossal bundles, dorsal longitudinal muscle bundles and vertical and transverse bundles, which are perpendicular to the long axis of the tongue. The interaction of the longitudinal with the vertical and horizontal muscles is responsible for bending during tongue flicking. Despite general similarities, distinct patterns of intrinsic tongue musculature characterize each infraorder of snakes. The Henophidia are primitive; the Scolecophidia and Caenophidia are each distinguished by derived characters. These derived characters support hypotheses that these latter taxa are each monophyletic. Cylindrophis (Anilioidea) is in some characters intermediate between Booidea and Colubroidea. The condition in the Booidea resembles the lizard condition; however, no synapomorphies of tongue musculature confirm a relationship with any specific lizard family. Although the pattern of colubroids appears to be the most biomechanically specialized, as yet no behavioral or performance feature has been identified to distinguish them from other snakes.
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