Vibrometric studies of the middle ear of the bullfrog Rana catesbeiana I. The extrastapes.


Laser vibrometry was used to measure the vibration velocity at different points on the ossicular apparatus of the bullfrog Rana catesbeiana in response to free-field sound. The ascending process of the extrastapes, neglected in most accounts of frog middle ear mechanics, supports a rocking motion of the extrastapes and is critical to the normal function of the ossicular apparatus. The articulation between extrastapes and the bony stapes shaft acts as a hinge, although movement at this hinge is usually small. The ratio of tympanic membrane to footplate vibration velocity is significantly greater in male frogs than in female frogs. Differences in this ratio between male and female frogs are probably mainly due to flexion between the extrastapes and stapes rather than to differences in the coupling between tympanic membrane and extrastapes. It is argued that flexibility in the ossicular system represents a protective mechanism in frogs, and functional analogies are drawn between the stapes/extrastapes system of frogs and the tri-ossicular system of mammals.