The vertebrate inner ear contains vestibular receptors with dense crystals of calcium carbonate, the otoconia. The production and maintenance of otoconia is a delicate process, the perturbation of which can lead to severe vestibular dysfunction in humans. The details of these processes are not well understood. Here, we report the discovery of a new otoconial mass in the lagena of adult pigeons that was present in more than 70% of birds. Based on histological, tomographic and elemental analyses, we conclude that the structure likely represents an ectopically-formed otoconial assembly. Given its frequent natural occurrence, we suggest that the pigeon lagena is a valuable model system for investigating misregulated otoconial formation.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.
Keywords: Avian lagena; Dark cells; Inner ear; Magnetoreception; Otolith; Tegmentum vasculosum; Vestibular organs.
© 2018. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.