Morphological and functional comparison of lingual papillae in suckling and adult feral cats: forensic evidence.
Feral cats are considered as strays and are more likely to hunt in the street. We investigated the effect of environmental adaptations on the structures of lingual papillae in feral cats, which could be used as forensic evidence for their identification. There are no reported studies about the structural comparison of lingual papillae between suckling and adult feral cats. The present study described the lingual papillae of both suckling and adult cats macroscopically and microscopically via light and scanning electron microscopy. A total of nine tongue samples each for suckling and adult feral cats were examined grossly and histologically. Papillae distributions of suckling cats were similar to those observed in adult cats. Meanwhile, the shapes of those papillae were markedly different from that of corresponding papillae in adults. The change in taste bud position and size seemed to be related to the progressive growth of the papillae between adult and suckling cats; absence of taste buds in foliate papillae of feral cats at any stage; and marginal papillae which were a characteristic feature for all suckling cats. All previous elements could be affected by the specific feeding behaviour and mastication mode adaptation in suckling and adult feral cats which might help to identify suckling and adult feral cats among other breeds and animal species. We anticipate these findings may provide promising forensic evidence to discriminate between adult and suckling feral cat remains as well as prediction of environmental harshness and feeding behaviour.