The inner ear of Protungulatum (Pan-Euungulata, Mammalia)
Orliac et al
We present new anatomical details about the bony labyrinth of Protungulatum based on micro CT-scan investigation of an isolated petrosal bone retrieved at the Puercan locality of Bug Creek Anthills and referred to Protungulatum sp. The exceptional state of preservation of the specimen allowed us to reconstruct the very fine details of the inside of the petrosal bone, including the bony labyrinth, the innervation of the vestibule and the innervation and vasculature of the cochlea. Estimation of the auditory capability of Protungulatum based on cochlear morphology indicate that Protungulatum was specialized for high-frequency hearing, with estimated low frequency limits above 1 KHz. Comparisons with Late Cretaceous non-placental eutherians and with early Tertiary pan-euungulates indicate that the bony labyrinth of Protungulatum is closer in general morphology to Mesozoic forms (low coiling and low aspect ratio of the cochlea, posterior orientation of the common crus, dorsal outpocketing of the cochlear fossula), and shares only a few characters with pan-euungulate and euungulate taxa. Interestingly, the bony labyrinth of Protungulatum also shares some morphological features with South American notoungulates and litopterns recently described from Itaboraí, Brazil. These new observations provide new morphological features of potential phylogenetic interest.