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Data from: Early evolution of the ossicular chain in Cetacea: into the middle ear gears of a semi-aquatic protocetid whale

Citation

Mourlam, Mickaël; Orliac, Maeva (2019), Data from: Early evolution of the ossicular chain in Cetacea: into the middle ear gears of a semi-aquatic protocetid whale, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.0k3fv2j

Abstract

Modifications of the morphology and acoustic properties of the ossicular chain are among the major changes that accompanied the adaptation of Cetacea to the aquatic environment. Thus, data on the middle ear ossicles of early whales are crucial clues to understand the first steps of the emblematic terrestrial/aquatic transition that occurred in that group. Yet, the delicate nature and very small size of these bones make their preservation in the fossil record extremely rare. Due to the scarcity of available data, major questions remain concerning the sound transmission pathways in early non-fully aquatic whales. Virtual reconstruction of a partially complete ossicular chain of an Eocene protocetid whale documents for the first time the three ossicles of a semi-aquatic archaeocete. Contrary to previous hypotheses, these ossicles present different evolutionary patterns, showing that the ossicular chain does not act as a single morphological module. Functional analyses of the different middle ear units highlight a mosaic pattern of terrestrial and aquatic signatures. This integrative anatomical and functional study brings strong evidence that protocetids were adapted to their dual acoustic environment with efficient hearing in both air and water.

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