The present report examined the morphology of fungiform papillae in adult rats that received bilateral chorda tympani transection at 10 days of age. Tongue tissue was examined using surface-structure analysis. Counts were made of fungiform papillae with a pore, fungiform papillae with no pore and fungiform papillae with a keratinized conical surface; a feature referred to as "filiform-like. " Neonatal chorda tympani nerve transection resulted not only in a loss of taste buds but also in a permanent loss in numbers of fungiform papillae. Compared with an average of 152 fungiform papillae in sham-operated control rats, there was an average of only 54 fungiform papillae after neonatal chorda tympani transection. Nearly 80% of these fungiform papillae in neonatal chorda tympani transected rats were filiform-like. No filiform-like papillae were noted in sham-operated rats. These results suggest that the chorda tympani nerve is necessary during an early postnatal period of development to maintain normal fungiform papillae morphology.