The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

The cochlear labyrinth of Krapina Neandertals


1Department of Anthropology, University of Kansas, 2Croatian Natural History Museum, Zagreb

Thursday 4:00-4:15, Grand Ballroom II Add to calendar

We present measurements of the cochlear labyrinth of Krapina Neandertals based on high-resolution computed tomography. The cochlea, a membranous, fluid-filled structure, houses the sensory end organ of the auditory system. Located within the inner ear, the cochlea occupies a spiral shaped cavity within the bony labyrinth of the petrous bone. The close anatomical relationship between the membranous cochlea and the bony cochlear labyrinth allows for the determination of cochlear size from fossil specimens. Recent studies with extant primate taxa suggest that cochlear labyrinth volume is functionally related to the range of audible frequencies. Specifically, cochlear volume is negatively correlated with both the high and low frequency limits of hearing so that the smaller the cochlea, the higher the range of audible frequencies. Our results show that the Krapina Neandertals have smaller cochlear volumes compared to modern Homo sapiens. Although the nature of the relationship between cochlear volume and hearing abilities remains speculative, the smaller cochlear volume in Neandertals may reflect an upward shift in their audible frequency range.

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