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Morphological variation in the ear region of pleistocene elephantimorpha (Mammalia, Proboscidea) from central Texas


  • Eric G. Ekdale

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Geological Sciences, Jackson School of Geological Sciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712
    • Department of Paleontology, San Diego Natural History Museum, P.O. Box 121390, San Diego, CA 92112
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A large sample of isolated elephantimorph petrosal bones was recovered from Pleistocene deposits in Friesenhahn Cave, Bexar County, Texas. Morphology of the middle and inner ear of the elephantimorphs is described and variation within the sample is identified. Observed variations occur in the stapedial ratio, morphology of the aquaeductus Fallopii, and connection of the crista interfenestralis to the tympanohyal on the posterior portion of the petrosal to form a foramen for passage of the stapedius muscle. The morphology of the aquaeductus Fallopii supports an ontogenetic explanation for some variation, and a sequence of ossification surrounding the aquaeductus Fallopii, from the anterior end of the canal to the posterior, is hypothesized. The stapedial ratio varies to a high degree across the sample, and such variation should be considered when the ratio is used in phylogenetic analyses. Within the inner ear, the absence of the secondary lamina suggests evolution of low-frequency hearing in extinct proboscideans, which is known for extant elephants. The morphology of the petrosals from Friesenhahn Cave is compared to published descriptions of the ear regions of other extinct proboscideans, and the distribution and evolution of morphologic characters are discussed. J. Morphol., 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.