A reader wondered about
tympanic (auditory) bullae (ear container bones) in desmostylians. Then I wondered, too. All whales are famous for having them. Nobody talks about them in desmostylans. So what gives? Here are the data:
apparently bullae are easily knocked off and/or ignored during the process of fossilization and extraction, both in mysticetes and desmostylians. Some examples follow:
Gray whale (Eschrichtius)
Bullae were present, but somehow got knocked off when it came time to draw the diagram (Fig. 1).
Cornwallius (a pre-desmostylian cambaythere) — overlooked bulla, called a ‘mass’ in the text.
Neoparadoxia (basal desmostylian)
Here you can see the depression that receives the bullae, but the bullae became missing at some stage in the process.
Desmostylus, a derived desmostylian close to right whales
Same here. Bulla not published. Depression for the reception still present.
Caperea, a basal right whale
Here’s an odd one. Not sure what happened to the bulla in ventral view. They seem to appear in occiput view.
This goes back somewhat on the tree, but hippos are in the lineage of baleen whales in the LRT and their auditory bones are present.
Ear bones compared
Baleen whale bullae greatly resemble toothed whale bullae. It’s true. Based on phylogeny, we’ll have to call this convergence. So is the loss of teeth in the rostrum of the sperm whale and blue whale. Convergence happens, but let’s keep an eye out for those bullae, now that we know what should be there.