Ectopic otoconial formation in the lagena of the pigeon inner ear.


The vertebrate inner ear contains vestibular receptors with dense crystals of calcium carbonate, the otoconia. The production and maintenance of otoconia is a delicate process, the perturbation of which can lead to severe vestibular dysfunction in humans. The details of these processes are not well understood. Here, we report the discovery of a new otoconial mass in the lagena of adult pigeons that was present in more than 70% of birds. Based on histological, tomographic and elemental analyses, we conclude that the structure likely represents an ectopically-formed otoconial assembly. Given its frequent natural occurrence, we suggest that the pigeon lagena is a valuable model system for investigating misregulated otoconial formation.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.