Morphology of the middle ear of golden moles (Chrysochloridae)




The middle ear structures of nine species of golden moles (family Chrysochloridae) were examined under the light microscope. Auditory structures of several of these species are described here for the first time in detail, the emphasis being on the ossicular apparatus. Confirming previous observations, some golden moles (e.g. Amblysomus species) have ossicles of a morphology typical of mammals, whereas others (Chrysospalax, Chrysochloris, Cryptochloris and Eremitalpa species) have enormously hypertrophied mallei. Golden moles differ in the nature and extent of the interbullar connection, the shape of the tympanic membrane and that of the manubrium. The stapes has an unusual orientation, projecting dorsomedially from the incus. It has been proposed that hypertrophied ossicles in golden moles are adapted towards the detection of seismic vibrations. The functional morphology of the middle ear apparatus is reconsidered in this light, and it is proposed that adaptations towards low-frequency airborne hearing might have predisposed golden moles towards the evolution of seismic sensitivity through inertial bone conduction. The morphology of the middle ear apparatus sheds little light on the disputed ordinal position of the Chrysochloridae.