Functional morphology of the middle ear in Chlorotalpa golden moles (Mammalia, Chrysochloridae): predictions from three models.


The ossicular apparatus of golden moles in the genus Chlorotalpa has received comparatively little attention in the literature, although the malleus is known to be intermediate in size between the "unmodified" malleus of Amblysomus and the hypertrophied mallei found in some other golden moles. In the present study, the middle ear structures of three Chlorotalpa species (C. duthieae, C. sclateri, and C. arendsi) are described. Measurements of middle ear structures were applied into three existing models of middle ear function. The predictions from the models suggest that the airborne hearing of Chlorotalpa species is limited to relatively low frequencies, but the impedance transformation by the middle ear apparatus is expected to be reasonably efficient. The sensitivity of the middle ear apparatus to inertial bone conduction is intermediate between that predicted for Amblysomus and that predicted for species with hypertrophied mallei. Hearing in fossorial mammals may be limited by factors other than the middle ear apparatus: the predictions for Chlorotalpa must therefore be treated with caution. However, a consideration of the "intermediate" middle ear morphology of Chlorotalpa species sheds some light on the origin of ossicular hypertrophy in golden moles. The limited enlargement of the malleus seen in Chlorotalpa is expected to have improved seismic sensitivity by bone conduction significantly at low frequencies, while airborne hearing might not have been adversely affected.