Before the nose

Our inner ear was originally a breathing organ, according to researchers studying a 370-million-year-old fossil of the Panderichthys fish. The researchers found that its gill opening, or spiracle, was the starting point for the development of hearing apparatus in the early four-limbed vertebrates that are the ancestors of human beings. (Nature 2006; 439: 318-21). Pictured is a scanning electron micrograph of the human eardrum.

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