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Fossil Record A palaeontological open-access journal of the Museum für Naturkunde

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Foss. Rec., 21, 33-45, 2018
https://doi.org/10.5194/fr-21-33-2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
16 Jan 2018
Relationships of cochlear coiling shape and hearing frequencies in cetaceans, and the occurrence of infrasonic hearing in Miocene Mysticeti
Indira S. Ritsche1, Julia M. Fahlke1, Frank Wieder2, André Hilger3, Ingo Manke3, and Oliver Hampe1 1Museum für Naturkunde – Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, Invalidenstraße 43,10115 Berlin, Germany
2Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung, Unter den Eichen 44–46, 12203 Berlin, Germany
3Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin für Materialien und Energie GmbH, Hahn-Meitner-Platz 1, 14109 Berlin, Germany
Abstract. Baleen whales (Mysticeti) are known to use low frequencies (LF; 200 Hz and below) and infrasound (< 20 Hz) for communication. The lowest hearing limits of toothed whales (Odontoceti), which are able to produce ultrasound (> 20 kHz), reach low frequencies. Researchers have tried to understand the evolution of LF and infrasonic hearing in mysticetes by linking the shape of the inner ear cochlea or individual cochlear measurements to known hearing frequencies and making inferences to extinct species. Using landmark-based shape analysis of complete cochlear coiling, we show that cochlear coiling shape correlates with LF and high-frequency (HF; > 10 kHz) hearing limits in cetaceans. Very LF ( ≤  50 Hz) and infrasonic hearing are associated with, for example, a protruding second turn, a descending apex, and a high number of turns. Correlations between cochlear and cranial variables and cochlear and cranial shape indicate that low LF hearing limits are furthermore connected to longer cochleae and relatively larger cranial widths. Very LF hearing in Mysticeti appeared in the middle Miocene, and mysticete infrasonic hearing had evolved by the late Miocene. Complete cochlear coiling is suitable for estimating hearing limits in cetaceans, closely approximated by cochlear length times number of cochlear turns.

Citation: Ritsche, I. S., Fahlke, J. M., Wieder, F., Hilger, A., Manke, I., and Hampe, O.: Relationships of cochlear coiling shape and hearing frequencies in cetaceans, and the occurrence of infrasonic hearing in Miocene Mysticeti, Foss. Rec., 21, 33-45, https://doi.org/10.5194/fr-21-33-2018, 2018.
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Short summary
The objective was to investigate inner ears and in particular the morphology of the cochlea of fossil and Recent baleen whales to reconstruct the occurrence of low-frequency hearing. Our results of cochlear shape analysis indicate that very low-frequency hearing appeared in the middle Miocene, and infrasonic hearing had evolved by the late Miocene. Cochlear coiling shape is suitable for estimating hearing limits in whales, closely approximated by cochlear length times number of cochlear turns.
The objective was to investigate inner ears and in particular the morphology of the cochlea of...
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