The cochlea of Tadarida brasiliensis: specialized functional organization in a generalized bat

Hear Res. 1995 Nov;91(1-2):178-95. doi: 10.1016/0378-5955(95)00188-3.


Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana employs a broad-band sonar system at frequencies between 80 and 20 kHz and is characterized by non-specialized hearing capabilities. The cochlear frequency map was determined with extracellular horseradish peroxidase tracing in relation to quantitative morphological data obtained with light, scanning and transmission electron microscopy. These data reveal distinct species characteristic specializations clearly separate from the patterns observed in other bats with either broad-band or narrow-band sonar systems. The basilar membrane (BM) is coiled to 2.5 turns and about 12 mm long. Its thickness and width only change within the extreme basal and apical ends. The frequency range from about 30 to 80 kHz is represented in the lower basal turn with a typically mammalian mapping coefficient of about 3 mm/octave. This region exhibits morphological features correlated with non-specialized processing of high frequencies. (1) The BM is radially segmented by thickenings of pars tecta and pars pectinata. (2) The 3 rows of outer hair cells (OHCs) have similar morphology. Between 35 and 86% distance from base, frequencies between 30 and 12 kHz are represented with a slightly expanded mapping coefficient of about 6 mm/octave. In analogy to previous work, this cochlea region is termed acoustic fovea. It includes the frequency range of maximum sensitivity and sharpest tuning (21-27 kHz) but also frequencies below the sonar signals. The fovea is characterized by several morphological specializations. (1) The BM features a continuous radial thickening mainly composed of hyaline substance. (2) There is an increased number of layers of tension fibroblasts in the spiral ligament. (3) There are morphological differences in the arrangements of stereocilia bundles among the 3 rows of OHCs. The transitions between non-specialized and specialized cochlear regions occur gradually within a distance of about 600 microns. The gradients in stereocilia length of both receptor cell types and the gradations in length of the OHC bodies match specialized aspects of the frequency map.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Basilar Membrane / metabolism
  • Basilar Membrane / ultrastructure*
  • Chiroptera / physiology*
  • Cochlea / cytology
  • Cochlea / physiology*
  • Cochlea / ultrastructure
  • Echolocation
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Outer / cytology*
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Outer / ultrastructure
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Species Specificity
  • Spiral Ganglion / metabolism
  • Spiral Ganglion / ultrastructure