The size and shape of the vertebrate skull can reveal a great deal about an animal’s lifestyle and evolutionary relationships. Consider your own skull. If you put your finger in your ear and move your jaw up and down, you can feel the space near the hinge of your jaw. Nestled in this space are the tiny bones that make your hearing possible: the malleus, incus, and stapes. All mammals have these three ear bones, but reptiles such as this T. rex don’t. Where did ear bones come from?
The illustration of the opossum skull shows that the ear bones are completely separated from the jawbone (as they are in all mammals). Pose a hypothesis to explain why this separation could be an adaptation that contributed to the radiation of mammals into diverse niches, including a nocturnal lifestyle.
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