Effects of age and size in the ears of gekkonomorph lizards: Middle-ear morphology with evolutionary implications

Authors

  • Yehudah L. Werner,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    2. Department of Evolution, Systematics and Ecology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
    • Department of Evolution, Systematics and Ecology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 91904 Jerusalem, Israel
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    • Fax: 972-2-6584741.

  • Shawn D. Safford,

    1. Department of Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
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  • Merav Seifan,

    1. Department of Evolution, Systematics and Ecology, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
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  • James C. Saunders

    1. Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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Abstract

The function of the ear depends in part on its absolute size and internal proportions. Thus, in both young individuals and small species, the middle ear is expected to be allometrically enlarged despite its smaller absolute size. Here we aim to compare the ontogenetic allometry of relevant middle-ear structures as observed within gecko (gekkonomorph lizards) species, with the evolutionary allometry observed interspecifically. These observations also provide middle-ear data for future evaluation of variation in auditory sensitivity. The material comprised 84 museum specimens of geckos, representing nine species of three gekkonomorph subfamilies. The results of dissections and measurements show that different reports notwithstanding, the middle-ear ossicular chain is indeed structured as described for geckos by Werner and Wever (J Exp Zool 1972;179:1–16) and Wever (The reptile ear, 1978). Some sexual dimorphism is indicated, but this requires further study. During postnatal ontogeny, the allometric growth in the ratio of the columellar footplate area to body length differed between the intraspecific and interspecific levels, hence species differences in the middle ear do not merely result from animal size. The ratio of the tympanic membrane area to the columellar footplate area increased during ontogeny. In this, geckos resemble birds and probably also mammals. Similarly, when the comparison was among adults representing different species, the ratio of the tympanic membrane area to the columellar footplate area increased with body size. In this, however, the geckos differed from birds and mammals, in which this ratio varied taxonomically, irrespective of body size. It would thus seem that middle-ear proportions have evolved among geckos to produce small interspecific differences, but among amniote tetrapods they have evolved according to different principles in the classes reptiles, birds, and mammals. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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