Topography of vibration frequency responses on the bony tympano-periotic complex of the pilot whale Globicephala macrorhynchus

Itamar Tsur*, Nir Shaviv, Israel Bronstein, David Elmakis, Oshri Knafo, Yehudah L. Werner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In modern Cetacea, the ear bone complex comprises the tympanic and periotic bones forming the tympano-periotic complex (TPC), differing from temporal bone complexes of other mammals in form, construction, position, and possibly function. To elucidate its functioning in sound transmission, we studied the vibration response of 32 pairs of formaldehyde-glutaraldehyde-fixed TPCs of Globicephala macrorhynchus, the short-finned pilot whale (legally obtained in Taiji, Japan). A piezoelectric-crystal-based vibrator was surgically attached to a location on the cochlea near the exit of the acoustic nerve. The crystal delivered vibrational pulses through continuous sweeps from 5 to 50 kHz. The vibration response was measured as a function of frequency by Laser Doppler Vibrometry at five points on the TPC. The aim of the experiment was to clarify how the vibration amplitudes produced by different frequencies are distributed on the TPC. At the lowest frequencies (<12 kHz), no clear differential pattern emerged. At higher frequencies the anterolateral lip of the TP responded most sensitively with the highest displacement amplitudes, and response amplitudes decreased in orderly fashion towards the posterior part of the TPC. We propose that this works as a lever: high-frequency sounds are most sensitively received and cause the largest vibration amplitudes at the anterior part of the TP, driving movements with lower amplitude but greater force near the posteriorly located contact to the ossicular chain, which transmits the movements into the inner ear. Although force (pressure) amplification is not needed for impedance matching in water, it may be useful for driving the stiffly connected ossicles at the high frequencies used in echolocation.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number107810
JournalHearing Research
StatePublished - Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier B.V.


  • Globicephala macrorhynchus
  • Laser-vibrometry
  • Odontocete hearing
  • Trampoline-like response
  • Travelling wave
  • Tympano-periotic complex


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