Mammals articulate their jaws using a novel joint between the dentary and squamosal bones. In eutherian mammals, this joint forms in the embryo, supporting feeding and vocalisation from birth. In contrast, marsupials and monotremes exhibit extreme altriciality and are born before the bones of the novel mammalian jaw joint form. These mammals need to rely on other mechanisms to allow them to feed. Here we show that this vital function is carried out by the earlier developing, cartilaginous incus of the middle ear, abutting the cranial base to form a cranio-mandibular articulation. The nature of this articulation varies between monotremes and marsupials, with juvenile monotremes retaining a double articulation, similar to that of the fossil mammaliaform Morganucodon, while marsupials use a versican-rich matrix to stabilise the jaw against the cranial base. These findings provide novel insight into the evolution of mammals and the changing relationship between the jaw and ear.
All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript.
- Abigail S Tucker
- Stephen D Johnston
- Marilyn B Renfree
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: This study was performed under UK Home Office licence and regulations in line with the regulations set out under the United Kingdom Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and the European Union Directive 2010/63/EU.
- Min Zhu, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
© 2020, Anthwal et al.
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