Coevolution of the Mammalian Middle Ear and Neocortex

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Science  02 Aug 1996:
Vol. 273, Issue 5275, pp. 651-654
DOI: 10.1126/science.273.5275.651


Phylogenetic analysis with x-ray computed tomography of fossilized and recent crania implicates differential growth of the neocortex in the evolution and development of the mammalian middle ear. In premammalian tetrapods, the middle ear evolved as a chain of bones attached to the mandible and cranium, but in adult mammals the chain is detached from the mandible and lies behind it. The neocortex evolved concurrently with detachment of the chain. In mammalian development the auditory chain arises connected to the mandible but later detaches, recapitulating the phylogenetic transformation. In modern didelphid development, the auditory chain reaches mature size by the third week after birth and is then separated from the jaw and displaced caudally as the neocortex grows for another 9 weeks.