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Science. 2001 Oct 12;294(5541):357-61.

An ossified Meckel's cartilage in two Cretaceous mammals and origin of the mammalian middle ear.

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Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, Post Office Box 643, Beijing, 100044, China.


An ossified Meckel's cartilage has been recovered from two early Cretaceous mammals from China. This element is similar to Meckel's cartilage in prenatal and some postnatal extant mammals and indicates the relationship of Meckel's cartilage with the middle ear in early mammals. The evidence shows that brain expansion may not be the initial factor that caused the separation of postdentary bones from the dentary as middle ear ossicles during mammalian evolution. The failure of the dentary to seize reduced postdentary elements during ontogeny of early mammals is postulated as an alternative mechanism for the separation. Modifications of both feeding and hearing apparatuses in early mammals may have led to the development of the definitive mammalian middle ear.

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