What can we learn from the ear morphology in mammals


Anne Le Maître

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

The mammalian ear is an astonishing sensory organ. Housed in the temporal bone of the skull, it comprises the smallest bones of the skeleton – the three auditory ossicles of the middle ear – and it is involved in both hearing and balance, thanks to receptor cells located in the inner ear. The morphological variability of the ear reflects phylogeny as well as adaptation to a huge diversity of ecological niches, locomotions and postural behaviours. The patterns of morphological integration between the ear and the surrounding bones suggest a mixture of spatial and functional constraints on this sensory organ. In this presentation, I will illustrate some of these aspects with a focus on the inner ear of primates, and discuss their consequences on our understanding of mammalian evolution.