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The Lepidosaurian Ear: Variations on a Theme.

December 30 , 2016:

Today, Lepidosauria encompasses more than 9,000 species of lizards, snakes, and amphisbaenians (Squamata), as well as the New Zealand Tuatara, Sphenodon (Rhynchocephalia). In many lizards, an efficient tympanic middle ear and an effective inner-ear compensatory mechanism permit acute hearing across a range of frequencies. Sphenodon lacks a tympanic membrane, but this is the result of secondary loss. Fossils of stem lepidosaurs and early rhynchocephalians indicate that the ancestral lepidosaurian middle ear was tympanic, although the compensatory mechanism was probably rudimentary. Derived rhynchocephalians like Sphenodon lost the tympanic ear, possibly in association with feeding specializations, whereas squamates improved it by developing a more efficient compensatory window. However, the timing of this change is uncertain as the earliest lizard fossils are uninformative in this respect. Lizards from the Early Cretaceous onward show the derived condition. Squamates are morphologically and ecologically diverse, and some specialized lifestyles have affected ear anatomy. Among extant squamates, the only obligate marine swimmers are sea snakes, but in the Cretaceous, mosasaurs dominated the marine niche. These aquatic lizards show a middle ear morphology analogous to that of extant marine turtles (bulla-like quadrate, expanded extrastapes, loss of the tympanum?). Loss of the tympanum also occurs in squamate burrowers but in conjunction with the possession of a robust stapes with an enlarged footplate and, frequently, reduction or modification of the compensatory mechanism. Ears of this type are found in the enigmatic Cretaceous Sineoamphisbaena and in amphisbaenians from the Eocene to the present day. Where known, the ears of early snakes more closely resemble those of burrowers than swimmers.

Susan E. Evans (2016)
The Lepidosaurian Ear: Variations on a Theme.
The Ear of Mammals: From Monotremes to Humans.
Evolution of the Vertebrate Ear: Evidence from the Fossil Record.
Springer Handbook of Auditory Research 59: 245-284
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-46661-3_9


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