Fabian Hollinetz


The inner ear of Afrotherians

MSc Student
Advisor: Philipp Mitteröcker

Unit for Theoretical Biology, Department of Evolutionary Biology
University of Vienna


The mammalian inner ear is a functionally, developmentally, and anatomically complex structure containing a lot of functionally distinct parts within close proximity. This should limit the evolutionary potential of the inner ear. Despite of this, the mammalian radiation has seen adaptations of the inner ear to various ecological regimes. The goal of this study was to investigate the influence of phylogenetic as well as ecological on inner ear evolution using methods from geometric morphometrics in a joint analysis of inner ear shape and sample species ecology. The sample consisted of 20 species from the afrotherian clade as well as 22 species from the mammalian class. Afrotherians were selected to cover a broad range of ecotypes, while members of other mammal groups were selected as analogues in order to capture and study possible instances of convergent evolution.

My findings contain similar shape features across distantly related groups which implies that ecological factors act as main constraint to the evolution of inner ear shape as opposed to phylogeny.