Otic notch

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Skull of Sclerocephalus, showing the otic notches

Otic notches are invaginations in the posterior margin of the skull roof, one behind each orbit. Such notches are found in labyrinthodonts and some of their immediate ancestors, but not in their reptilian descendants. The presence or absence of the otic notches is one of the traits used to separate the amniotes from the amphibian grade tetrapods.

The notches have been interpreted as part of an auditory structure and are often reconstructed as holding a tympanum similar to those seen in modern anurans. Analysis of the columella (the stapes in amphibians and reptiles) of labyrinthodonts however indicates that it did not function in transmitting low-energy vibrations, thus rendering these animals effectively deaf to airborne sound.[1] The otic notch instead functioned as a spiracle, at least in the early forms.[2]


  1. ^ Lombard, R. E. & Bolt, J. R. (1979): Evolution of the tetrapod ear: an analysis and reinterpretation. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society No 11: pp 19–76 Abstract
  2. ^ Laurin, M. (1996): Hearing in Stegocephalians, from the Tree of Life Web Project