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?
Analyze the morphological data shown here and write a hypothesis to explain the origin of mammalian ear bones. (The cynodont shown is one of many extinct synapsid amniotes that lived early in the lineage that gave rise to mammals.)
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