Project 3551: P. M. Sánchez-Martínez, J. D. Daza, J. M. Hoyos. 2021. Comparative anatomy of the middle ear in some lizard species with comments on the evolutionary changes within Squamata. PeerJ. 9:e11722.
Specimen: Morunasaurus groi (ICN/ICN :6270)
View: lateral


The middle ear of lizards is composed of three anatomical elements: columella, extracolumella, and tympanic membrane, with some exceptions that show modifications of this anatomy. The main function of the middle ear is transforming sound waves into vibrations and transmitting these to the inner ear. Most middle ear studies mainly focus on its functional aspects, while few describe the anatomy in detail. In lizards, the morphology of the columella is highly conservative, while the extracolumella shows variation in its presence/absence, size, and the number of processes present on the structure. In this work, we used diaphanized and double-stained specimens of 38 species of lizards belonging to 24 genera to study the middle ear’s morphology in a comparative framework. Results presented here indicate more variation in the morphology of the extracolumella than previously known. This variation in the extracolumella is found mainly in the pars superior and anterior processes, while the pars inferior and the posterior process are more constant in morphology. We also provide new information about the shape of gekkotan extracolumella, including traits that are diagnostic for the iguanid and gekkonid middle ear types. The data collected in this study were combined with information from published descriptive works. The new data included here refers to the length of the columella relative to the extracolumella central axis length, the general structure of the extracolumella, and the presence of the internal process. These characters were included in ancestral reconstruction analysis using Bayesian and parsimony approaches. The results indicate high levels of homoplasy in the variation of the columella-extracolumella ratio, providing a better understanding of the ratio variation among lizards. Additionally, the presence of four processes in the extracolumella is the ancestral state for Gekkota, Pleurodonta, and Xantusiidae, and the absence of the internal processes is the ancestral state for Gekkota, Gymnophthalmidae, and Scincidae; despite the fact that these groups convergently develop these character states, they could be used in combination with other characters to diagnose these clades. The posterior extension in the pars superior and an anterior process with some small and sharp projections is also a diagnostic trait for Gekkota. A more accurate description of each process of the extracolumella and its variation needs to be evaluated in a comprehensive analysis, including a greater number of species. Although the number of taxon sampling in this study is small considering the vast diversity of lizards, the results provide an overall idea of the amount of variation of the middle ear while helping to infer the evolutionary history of the lizard middle ear.

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Article DOI: 10.7717/peerj.11722

Project DOI: 10.7934/P3551,
This project contains
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  • 10 Documents
  • 2 Taxa
  • 2 Specimens
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MorphoBank Project 3551
  • Creation Date:
    11 October 2019
  • Publication Date:
    20 June 2021
  • Project views: 11788

    Authors' Institutions

    • Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

    • Sam Houston State University


    member name taxa specimens media
    Paola María Sánchez-Martínez
    Project Administrator
    Juan D. Daza
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