Indexed on: 27 Oct '17Published on: 27 Oct '17Published in: Journal of Morphology
The anterior anchoring of the malleus of 30 extant species of Lagomorpha (rabbits, hares, pikas) has been studied on the basis of histological serial sections and µCT-scans. It is shown that former studies of Oryctolagus, Lepus, and Ochotona are incomplete, because the rostral part of the processus anterior of the malleus is always lacking due to damage of this extremely delicate structure. Our study shows that in perinatal stages of Leporidae the praearticulare develops a prominent processus internus that fits into a groove at the ventral side of the tegmen tympani; this "tongue and groove"-arrangement may act as a hinge. In adult stages, the rostral end of the praearticulare fuses synostotically with the medial process of the ectotympanic. Torsional strain produced by rotation around the axis of the middle ear ossicles at sound transmission must, therefore, be experienced by the extremely thin but highly elastic bony pedicle of the processus internus praearticularis. The free ending processus anterior of a late fetal Ochotona shows a short processus internus praearticularis, which does not articulate with the tegmen tympani. During postnatal development the middle ear of Ochotona becomes considerably remodelled: not only does excessive pneumatization of the tegmen tympani and tympanic cavity wall occur, but the short processus anterior is fused synostotically to a bone trabecula of the tegmen tympani meshwork. The thin and elastic bone bridges are not equivalent in Leporidae and Ochotonidae, that is, they must have evolved convergently. Fleischer's classification with Oryctolagus possessing a "freely mobile type" of middle ear ossicles cannot be supported by our observations. The same holds true for Ochotona, which does not represent a "freely mobile type" either. Thus, we suggest for the lagomorph middle ear ossicles a new category: the "bone elasticity type."