The colonic groove or furrow: A comparative morphological study of six species of African mole-rats (Rodentia, Bathyergidae)

S. H. Kotzé, E. L. van der Merwe, R. Ndou, M. J. O'Riain, N. C. Bennett

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Herbivorous mammals such as nutrias, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and mole-rats have a longitudinal mucosal colonic groove (furrow) in their ascending colon, which is thought to play a role in the colonic separation mechanism (CSM). It is not known whether this groove is structurally modified to adapt to this function in mole-rat species. The morphology of this groove was studied in 32 mol-rats, four species, one of which consisted of three subspecies, endemic to southern Africa and two species found in eastern Africa. The macroscopic morphology of the groove was documented, and samples for histological examination were taken. The groove was wide at its origin at the cecocolic junction and was lined on either side by a row of papillae with the opposing papillae slightly offset in arrangement. The papillated groove gradually decreased in size toward the distal part of the ascending colon where it disappeared. This pattern was similar in all species except in Heterocephalus glaber, where the papillae were absent and the groove was lined by two longitudinal ridges. A histological examination of cross sections revealed that the mucosa covering the inner and outer walls of the groove was rich in mucous-secreting goblet cells. The walls of the groove contained smooth muscle extending from the inner circular smooth muscle layer at the base to the tips of the papillae in all species examined as well as arteries, lymphatic vessels, and prominent sinusoid-like veins. The groove could be demonstrated both macroscopically and histologically in three Bathyergus suillus fetuses of varying sizes. The sinusoid-like veins present in all grooves, regardless of macroscopic shape, suggest that they have a role in the functioning of the groove.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)966-975
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Morphology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • CSM
  • Colonic groove
  • Colonic separation mechanism
  • Comparative morphology
  • Mole-rats


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