Ritsche, I.S.; Fahlke, J.M.; Wieder, F.; Hilger, A.; Manke, I.; Hampe, O.: Relationships of cochlear coiling shape and hearing frequencies in cetaceans, and the occurrence of infrasonic hearing in Miocene Mysticeti. Fossil Record 21 (2018), p. 33-45
Open Accesn Version

Baleen whales (Mysticeti) are known to use low frequencies (LF; 200 Hz and below) and infrasound (< 20 Hz) for communication. The lowest hearing limits of toothed whales (Odontoceti), which are able to produce ultrasound (> 20 kHz), reach low frequencies. Researchers have tried to understand the evolution of LF and infrasonic hearing in mysticetes by linking the shape of the inner ear cochlea or individual cochlear measurements to known hearing frequencies and making inferences to extinct species. Using landmark-based shape analysis of complete cochlear coiling, we show that cochlear coiling shape correlates with LF and high-frequency (HF; > 10 kHz) hearing limits in cetaceans. Very LF ( 50 Hz) and infrasonic hearing are associated with, for example, a protruding second turn, a descending apex, and a high number of turns. Correlations between cochlear and cranial variables and cochlear and cranial shape indicate that low LF hearing limits are furthermore connected to longer cochleae and relatively larger cranial widths. Very LF hearing in Mysticeti appeared in the middle Miocene, and mysticete infrasonic hearing had evolved by the late Miocene. Complete cochlear coiling is suitable for estimating hearing limits in cetaceans, closely approximated by cochlear length times number of cochlear turns.