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Non-Mammalian Synapsids: The Beginning of the Mammal Line

Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR,volume 59)

Abstract

The homologies between the malleus, incus, and ectotympanic bones of the mammalian middle ear and the articular, quadrate, and angular bones of the tetrapod palatoquadrate, respectively, are well-established by embryonic evidence. The evolutionary question of how the implied transition occurred is less clear and, historically, there have been two general views. The first view is that the ancestral state was a reptile-like tympanic membrane behind the quadrate that activated the stapes, and that the jaw hinge bones were subsequently incorporated between tympanic membrane and stapes. The second view is that in the ancestor, low-frequency ground-borne sound was received by the lower jaw and transmitted via the hinge bones and stapes to the fenestra ovalis. The anatomy of the middle ear region of the known sequence of fossil stem-group mammals—pelycosaurs, basal therapsids, and several cynodonts—is reviewed in this chapter. As with almost all recent authors, the interpretation offers support for the second view. Within the cynodont grades, decreasing mass of the postdentary bones relative to the dentary is part of a complex of changes in the feeding mechanism but also implies increasing sensitivity to airborne sound. As long as the jaw hinge continued to perform a mechanical role in mandibular function, the bones were too massive to be receptive to higher frequency sound, and therefore an air-filled tympanic cavity and tympanic membrane were unlikely to have evolved. This latter stage awaited the origin of the new mammalian jaw hinge between the dentary and squamosal bones in mammaliaforms.

Keywords

  • Cynodonts
  • Dicynodonts
  • Evolution of hearing
  • Origin of mammals
  • Pelycosaurs
  • Synapsids
  • Synapsid ear
  • Therapsids
  • Therocephalians

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T. S. Kemp has declared there were no conflicts of interest.

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Kemp, T.S. (2016). Non-Mammalian Synapsids: The Beginning of the Mammal Line. In: Clack, J., Fay, R., Popper, A. (eds) Evolution of the Vertebrate Ear . Springer Handbook of Auditory Research, vol 59. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-46661-3_5

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