An international team of scientists has traced the evolution of hearing in modern cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). "This study of the early evolution of whales demonstrates the changes that took place in whales outer and middle ears, required for the transition from a land-based to a marine-based existence," said Rich Lane, director of the National Science Foundation (NSF)s geology and paleontology program, which funded the research.
The findings are published in the Aug. 12 issue of the journal Nature.
The ear is the most important sense organ for modern toothed whales, say scientists, because these whales locate their prey using echolocation. Directional hearing is critical: A blind such whale could find food without much trouble; a deaf one would starve.
The study documents how hearing in these whales evolved. The research is based on cetacean fossils representing four groups of early whales. The earliest cetaceans, pakicetids (those that swam in ancient seas 50 million years ago), used the same sound transmission system as did land mammals, and so had poor underwater hearing. More recent cetaceans, remingtonocetids and protocetids (those that lived 43- 46 million years ago), retained the land-mammal system, but also developed a new sound transmission system.
"The fossils document the ways in which cetacean hearing has changed, starting with ear fossils of whales land ancestors and ending with the ear of near- modern looking whales," said Hans Thewissen, an anatomist at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (NEOUCOM). Thewissen and NEOUCOM researcher Sirpa Nummela led the study.
The newer system was similar to that of modern whales. The later whales could hear better in water than pakicetids could, and could also hear in air, but hearing in both media was compromised by the existence of two systems. With the advent of basilosauroids (approximately 40 million years ago), the old landmammal ear disappeared, and the modern cetacean sound transmission system began its development. Although basilosaurids were not echolocators (they lacked the soundemission equipment of later echolocators), they had taken a major step forward in refining underwater sound reception.
In addition to Thewissen and Nummela, the research team includes Sunil Bajpai, Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee; S. Taseer Hussain, Howard University College of Medicine; and Kishor Kumar, Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, India. Support for the project was also provided by the Department of Science and Technology, India.
Julie A. Smith | National Science Foundation
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
25.10.2016 | Process Engineering