Structure and function in whale ears

  • Ketten D
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Abstract

rntrasonic echolocation abilities are well documented in several dolphin species, but hearing characteristics are unknown for most whales. VocaIization data suggest whale hearing spans infra- to ultrasonic ranges. This paper presents an overview of whale ear anatomy and analyzes 1) how whale ears are adapted for undenvater hearing and 2) how inner ear differences relate to different hearing capacities among whales. Whales have adaptations for rapid, deep diving and long submersion; e.g., broad· bore Eustachian tubes, no pinnae, and no air-filled external canals, that impact sound reception. In odontocetes. two soft tissue channels conduct sound to the ear. In mysticetes, bone and soft tissue conduction are likely. The middle ear is air-filled but has an extensible mucosa. Cochlear structures are hypertrophied ana vestibular components are reduced. Auditory ganglion cell densities are double land mammal averages (2000- 4000/mm). Basilar membrane lengths range 20-70 mm; gradients are larger than in terrestrial mammals. Odontocetes have 20-60% bony membrane support and basal ratios >0.6, consistent with hearing >150 kHz. Mysticetes have apical ratios

Author-supplied keywords

  • Auditory nerve
  • Auditory system
  • Basilar membrane
  • Cetacean ear
  • Cochlea
  • Inner ear
  • Mysticete
  • Odontocete

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Authors

  • Darlene R. Ketten

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