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Here we describe the bony anatomy of the inner ear and surrounding structures seen in three plesiomorphic crown mammalian petrosal specimens. Our study sample includes the triconodont Priacodon fruitaensis from the Upper Jurassic of North America, and two isolated stem therian petrosal specimens colloquially known as the Höövör petrosals, recovered from Aptian-Albian sediments in Mongolia. The second Höövör petrosal is here described at length for the first time. All three of these petrosals and a comparative sample of extant mammalian taxa have been imaged using micro-CT, allowing for detailed anatomical descriptions of the osteological correlates of functionally significant neurovascular features, especially along the abneural wall of the cochlear canal. The high resolution imaging provided here clarifies several hypotheses regarding the mosaic evolution of features of the cochlear endocast in early mammals. In particular, these images demonstrate that the membranous cochlear duct adhered to the bony cochlear canal abneurally to a secondary bony lamina before the appearance of an opposing primary bony lamina or tractus foraminosus. Additionally, while corroborating the general trend of reduction of venous sinuses and plexuses within the pars cochlearis seen in crownward mammaliaforms generally, the Höövör petrosals show the localized enlargement of a portion of the intrapetrosal venous plexus. This new vascular feature is here interpreted as the bony accommodation for the vein of cochlear aqueduct, a structure that is solely, or predominantly, responsible for the venous drainage of the cochlear apparatus in extant therians. Given that our fossil stem therian inner ear specimens appear to have very limited high-frequency capabilities, the development of these modern vascular features of the cochlear endocast suggest that neither the initiation or enlargement of the stria vascularis (a unique mammalian organ) was originally associated with the capacity for high-frequency hearing or precise sound-source localization.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: PloS one
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The cochlear part of the 8th cranial nerve (VESTIBULOCOCHLEAR NERVE). The cochlear nerve fibers originate from neurons of the SPIRAL GANGLION and project peripherally to cochlear hair cells and centrally to the cochlear nuclei (COCHLEAR NUCLEUS) of the BRAIN STEM. They mediate the sense of hearing.
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The sensory ganglion of the COCHLEAR NERVE. The cells of the spiral ganglion send fibers peripherally to the cochlear hair cells and centrally to the COCHLEAR NUCLEI of the BRAIN STEM.
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