Reassessment of the La Ferrassie 3 Neandertal ossicular chain



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Quam, Rolf and Martínez Mendizábal, Ignacio and Arsuaga, Juan Luis (2013) Reassessment of the La Ferrassie 3 Neandertal ossicular chain. Journal of Human Evolution, 64 . pp. 250-262. ISSN 0047-2484

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The ossicular chain in La Ferrassie 3 was briefly described in the monograph on the La Ferrassie Neandertal
children, but to date has not been the subject of detailed study. We provide new data on these
important fossils and re-examine some previous suggestions of derived Neandertal features in the
middle ear ossicles based on more limited evidence. The malleus shows a curved lateral margin of the
manubrium and a relatively large head. The incus shows a tall articular facet, a depressed area on the
medial surface of the body, a straight anterior border of the long process and a more closed angle between
the processes. The stapes shows an asymmetrical configuration of the crura, with an anteriorly
skewed head, and generally small dimensions, including a smaller and relatively wider stapedial footplate.
These same features can also be seen in the few other Neandertal ear ossicles known, suggesting
that a consistent anatomical pattern characterizes the Neandertal ossicular chain. While the phylogenetic
polarity of many of these features remains to be clarified, the asymmetrical stapes and anteriorly skewed
stapedial head appear to be derived Neandertal features. In addition, while the larger malleus head and
incus articular facet in La Ferrassie 3 might reflect larger body mass in Neandertals, the larger stapes
footplates in Homo sapiens cannot be explained by changes in body mass. Indeed, H. sapiens seems to
depart from the general mammalian pattern in combining an increase in stapes footplate size with
a decrease in body mass. Although the malleus/incus lever ratio in La Ferrassie 3 is similar to that in
H. sapiens, Neandertals appear to be characterized by a slightly different spatial relationship and articulation
of the ossicular chain within the tympanic cavity. While only limited inferences can be drawn
regarding hearing ability based on the ossicles, the few physiologically relevant dimensions in the La
Ferrassie 3 ear bones are similar to H. sapiens.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Malleus, Incus, Stapes, Middle ear, Evolution, Homo neanderthalensis
Subjects:Sciences > Geology > Paleontology
ID Code:27146
Deposited On:20 Oct 2014 11:00
Last Modified:11 Dec 2018 08:41

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