It is currently thought that New World monkeys, prosimians, and humans are the only primates to possess vomeronasal organs (VNOs) as adults. Recent studies of the human VNO suggest that previous investigations on Old World primates may have missed the VNO. We examined nasal septa from the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) grossly and histologically for comparison with nasal septa from humans, Old World monkeys (Macaca fascicularis, M. nemistrina) and prosimian primates (Microcebus murinus, Otolemur garnettii). Grossly, chimpanzees had depressions on the nasal septum similar to fossae reported anterior to the VNO openings in humans. Histologically, chimpanzees and humans had bilateral epithelial tubes which were above the superior margin of the paraseptal cartilages (vomeronasal cartilage homologue). The epithelial tubes had a homogeneous ciliated epithelium. These structures were thus positionally and structurally identical to the human VNO and unlike the well-developed prosimian VNOs which were surrounded by vomeronasal cartilage. Macaques had no structures which resembled the VNO of either the prosimians or humans. The results demonstrate that the VNO is present postnatally in the chimpanzee and is almost identical to the human VNO in its anatomical position and histological structure. This in turn suggests that the reported absence of the VNO in at least some adult Old World primates is artifactual, and that further study may provide evidence for its existence in other species.
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