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Evolution does much more than touching it by ear, say Wits scientists

The Institute for Evolutionary Studies at the University of Wits has revealed another secret from the ancient past.

He has discovered that some marine reptiles from millions of years ago had internal ears similar to today's aquatic creatures, such as whales. sea ​​turtles and crocodiles.

The inner ear can be a relatively small part of any animal's body, but it is a powerful "map" of the lives lived by creatures that long ago disappeared from our world.

Why? Because the inner ear contains a small sensory organ responsible for balance and orientation. It gives clues about the locomotion of an animal, especially those in a three-dimensional environment like the sea.

The university said in a statement that an international team of researchers led by Dr. James Neenan at Wits was "surprised that a completely extinct group of marine reptiles called sauropterigies (swimming reptiles of the dinosaur era) developed proportions. similar to those of some aquatic reptiles and modern mammals, "even though their lifestyle was so different.

Neenan said: "Sauropterygians are completely extinct and have no living descendants, so I was surprised to see that species near the coast with limbs that resemble those of terrestrial animals had crocodilian-like ears and that Fully aquatic, flippered plesiosaurs had ears similar to sea turtles. "

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