Development of the middle ear region in Monodelphis domestica (Marsupialia, Didelphidae): marsupial solutions to an early birth



Middle ear ontogeny in Monodelphis domestica is investigated to understand better both the immediate consequences for suckling in a neonate marsupial and the epigenetic factors that constrain morphogenesis. Neonates of Monodelphis possess neither mammalian (dentarysquamosal) nor reptilian (quadrate-articular) jaw articulations, nor does the contact between the incus and crista parotica offer a joint surface (contra Maier, 1987). Elasticity in Meckel's cartilage allows minimal deflection of the lower jaw. Observation of the developmental rate of the individual elements reveals that mandibular arch derivatives (malleus, incus and tensor tympani) are on a slightly faster ontogenetic schedule than hyoid arch derivatives (stapes and m. stapedius).