Morphology of the macula neglecta in sharks of the genus Carcharhinus

J Morphol. 1977 Jun;152(3):341-62. doi: 10.1002/jmor.1051520306.


Ears from several species of carcharhinid sharks were studied by gross dissection, light microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, and scanning electron microscopy. Structures along a possible sound transmission path to the ear are described, but main consideration is given to the structure of the macula neglecta. The macula neglecta is composed of two patches of sensory epithelium which line part of the posterior canal duct. In an adult shark the larger of these contains 224,000 sensory hair cells oriented so as to detect forces directed posteroventrolaterally in the duct. The smaller patch contains 43,000 hair cells oriented so as to detect oppositely directed forces. These receptor cells project through numerous small terminals to a total for both patches of 4,700 myelinated nerve fibers. Cytostructural variations throughout the hair cell population are also reported. Estimated acoustic properties of the tissues in this complex and the processing potential of the neural elements are interpreted as suggestive of auditory function. A mechanism based on the geometry of the receptor arrays is proposed to explain behaviorally observed instantaneous sound localization from the farfield. Evolution of the macula neglecta is reviewed, and evidence for homology of the macula neglecta and amphibian papilla is presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Biological Evolution
  • Connective Tissue / anatomy & histology
  • Ear, Inner / anatomy & histology*
  • Ear, Inner / innervation
  • Ear, Inner / ultrastructure
  • Epithelium / anatomy & histology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / physiology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory / ultrastructure
  • Hearing
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Sensory Receptor Cells
  • Sharks / anatomy & histology*