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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
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    Among extant vertebrates, mammals are distinguished by having a chain of three auditory ossicles (the malleus, incus and stapes) that transduce sound waves and promote an increased range of audible—especially high—frequencies. By contrast, the homologous bones in early fossil mammals and relatives also functioned in chewing through their bony attachments to the lower jaw. Recent discoveries of well-preserved Mesozoic mammals have provided glimpses into the transition from the dual (masticatory and auditory) to the single auditory function for the ossicles, which is now widely accepted to have occurred at least three times in mammal evolution. Here we report a skullmore »and postcranium that we refer to the haramiyidan Vilevolodon diplomylos (dating to the Middle Jurassic epoch (160 million years ago)) and that shows excellent preservation of the malleus, incus and ectotympanic (which supports the tympanic membrane). After comparing this fossil with other Mesozoic and extant mammals, we propose that the overlapping incudomallear articulation found in this and other Mesozoic fossils, in extant monotremes and in early ontogeny in extant marsupials and placentals is a morphology that evolved in several groups of mammals in the transition from the dual to the single function for the ossicles.« less