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Hear Res. 1994 Jun 1;76(1-2):67-72.

Hearing in primitive mammals: Monodelphis domestica and Marmosa elegans.

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Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee 32306-1051.


Although opossums of the Family Didelphidae usually serve as a parsimonious starting point for tracing the otological and neurological evolution of modern mammals, audiological data for Didelphid opossums is available only for the North American opossum (Didelphis virginiana) which because of its large size, may be one of the least representative genera of the family. The present report extends the audiological data to two other species of Didelphid opossums, Monodelphis domestica, and Marmosa elegans. At 60 dB SPL, the hearing of Monodelphis extends from 3.6 kHz to 77 kHz, with a range of best sensitivity from 8 to 64 kHz while the hearing of Marmosa extends from 3.8 kHz to 80 kHz, with a range of best sensitivity from 8 to 64 kHz. Neither species was found to be particularly sensitive to tones, with the average lowest threshold near 20 dB SPL for Monodelphis and 33 dB SPL for Marmosa. These results indicate that like the North American opossum both genera are sensitive to high frequencies yet relatively insensitive to sound. Because the hearing of the three genera of Didelphids agree in several respects, it can be concluded that sensitivity to high frequencies almost certainly was present in ancient mammals, probably following quickly after the acquisition of a 3 ossicle middle ear linkage. It is not unlikely that the utility value of high frequency hearing, rather than highly sensitive hearing, may have been a primary source of selective pressure for this morphological transformation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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