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Title: The element of Paaw in marsupials and the middle ear of Philander opossum (Linnaeus, 1758) (Didelphimorphia, Didelphidae)
A small piece of cartilage or bone, the element of Paaw, occurs in the tendon of the stapedius muscle in some extant marsupial and placental mammals. It has been nearly a century since the last comprehensive treatment of the distribution of the element of Paaw in mammals. The current report updates knowledge on this structure by synthesizing the subsequent literature and providing new observations of extant marsupials from the collections of the Section of Mammals, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and two online resources for CT scanned data: and We found an element of Paaw in some representatives of all seven extant marsupial orders: Didelphimorphia, Microbiotheria, Notoryctemorphia, Peramelemorphia, Paucituberculata, Dasyuromorphia, and Diprotodontia. In the first four orders, the element is substantial, longer than the long axis of the fenestra vestiuli (oval window), which holds the stapedial footplate; it is smaller than the long axis of the fenestra vestibuli in Paucituberculata and we do not have measures to report for the last two orders. In most marsupials examined, the element of Paaw contacts the petrosal behind the oval window, suggesting it functions as a sesamoid bone, increasing the lever arm of the stapedius muscle. Although there is some variability in the presence of the bone both between and within individual museum specimens, we interpret this as the result of preparation techniques rather than true variation. To place the element of Paaw in its anatomical context, we describe in detail the ear region and middle-ear auditory apparatus of the gray four-eyed opossum, Philander opossum (Linnaeus, 1758), a didelphid from Central and South America, based on a CT scanned specimen from Carnegie Museum of Natural History. It has an ossified element of Paaw with a volume greater than the stapes. Comparisons are made with petrosals of Didelphis marsupialis Linnaeus, 1758, and Monodelphis domestica (Wagner, 1842), also based on CT scanned specimens.  more » « less
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Annals of Carnegie Museum
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National Science Foundation
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