History of whale hearing: Ear imaging

Yamato M, Pyenson ND (2015) Early Development and Orientation of the Acoustic Funnel Provides Insight into the Evolution of Sound Reception Pathways in Cetaceans.
March 11, 2015
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reconstruction of whale inner ear
Yamato M, Pyenson ND (2015) Early Development and Orientation of the Acoustic Funnel Provides Insight into the Evolution of Sound Reception Pathways in Cetaceans.

Using innovative imaging methods, the research team became the first group of scientists to identify and depict in situ the development of a specific area of the ear found exclusively in whales known as the “acoustic funnel” (above: pink cone), a structure thought to be a critical component to better understanding how baleen (bottom) and toothed whales (top) hear in their aquatic environments. In 2015, a team of researchers from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History CT scanned 56 specimens of toothed and baleen whales and gained new insight about how whales successfully made the dramatic evolutionary shift from land to sea and adapted to hearing underwater.

(Image courtesy Yamato M, Pyenson ND (2015) Early Development and Orientation of the Acoustic Funnel Provides Insight into the Evolution of Sound Reception Pathways in Cetaceans.)