Vibrometric studies of the middle ear of the bullfrog Rana catesbeiana II. The operculum.


The operculum and stapes footplate, the two moveable elements within the oval window of the frog, have been thought to function independently. In this study, laser interferometry was used to record the vibrations of both structures in response to free-field airborne sound. Contrary to expectation, the operculum appears to be coupled to the footplate. Coupling is achieved both by means of ligaments and by a cartilaginous flange of the footplate that underlies the operculum. The stapes footplate rotates about an axis located ventrolaterally, but the axis for the operculum is dorsomedial. As a result of this unusual morphology, the opercularis muscle, which connects the operculum and shoulder girdle, can potentially affect the movements of both the operculum and footplate. The proposed roles of the opercularis system in seismic signal detection and extratympanic sound transmission are critically reviewed in the light of this new evidence. An alternative or additional role for the opercularis system is proposed, involving the protection of the inner ear from high-amplitude displacements of the stapes footplate during breathing and vocalisation.