The paratympanic organ: a barometer and altimeter in the middle ear of birds?

J Exp Zool B Mol Dev Evol. 2011 Sep 15;316(6):402-8. doi: 10.1002/jez.b.21422. Epub 2011 Jun 30.


A century has passed since the discovery of the paratympanic organ (PTO), a mechanoreceptive sense organ in the middle ear of birds and other tetrapods. This luminal organ contains a sensory epithelium with typical mechanosensory hair cells and may function as a barometer and altimeter. The organ is arguably the most neglected sense organ in living tetrapods. The PTO is believed to be homologous to a lateral line sense organ, the spiracular sense organ of nonteleostean fishes. Our review summarizes the current state of knowledge of the PTO and draws attention to the astounding lack of information about the unique and largely unexplored sensory modality of barometric perception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Altitude
  • Animals
  • Atmospheric Pressure
  • Birds / anatomy & histology*
  • Chickens
  • Ear, Middle / anatomy & histology*
  • Ear, Middle / innervation*
  • Epithelium
  • Fishes
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / cytology*
  • Lateral Line System / innervation
  • Sense Organs / anatomy & histology
  • Sense Organs / innervation
  • Tympanic Membrane / anatomy & histology*
  • Tympanic Membrane / innervation