The anterior process of the malleus in Cetartiodactyla.

Research paper by Wolfgang W Maier, Irina I Ruf

Indexed on: 30 Oct '15Published on: 30 Oct '15Published in: Journal of Anatomy


The anterior fixation of the anterior process of the malleus has been studied in a number of Cetartiodactyla. This anterior process, also known as processus gracilis, is provided by the prearticular (gonial), a dermal bone, whereas the cartilage of Meckel becomes resorbed in perinatal ontogenetic stages. Posteriorly, the prearticular fuses with the cartilaginous caput of the malleus; rostrally, the prearticular (= processus gracilis) is always fixed to the anterior crus of the ectotympanic by an extremely thin splint (thickness < 50 μm). From the rostral part of the processus gracilis all studied cetartiodactyls develop a processus internus of considerable size. This process was known as 'ossiculum accessorium mallei' in former times, and its homology has been disputed; from our microscopic-anatomical study we can definitely state that it is always a 'processus internus praearticularis'. This process contacts the fascia of the tensor tympani muscle. In non-ruminants, it articulates dorsally with the tegmen tympani and dorsolaterally with the ectotympanic; whereas the processus gracilis becomes more and more slender, the processus internus may grow to considerable size and normally is fused to the adjacent bones already in juveniles. However, in ruminants, the tegmen tympani tends to disappear and the processus internus praearticularis appears as relatively small bony knob at the floor of the medial cranial cavity, and it seems not to be fused to the surrounding bones; in later age stages, it may become secondarily overgrown by the petrosal. This dorsally exposed processus internus praearticularis seems to be a synapomorphy of the Ruminantia. The functional meaning of this internal process of the prearticular, which is also developed to a minor degree in Carnivora, remains unclear at the moment - but we present some speculations about this.