Nature and Quality of the Fossil Evidence for Otic Evolution in Early Tetrapods

  • John R. Bolt
  • R. Eric Lombard


A frequent, and frequently appropriate, role of paleontologists at a conference on the evolutionary biology of anything, is to provide temporal perspective via an overview of morphology and function based on fossils. The recipients of such paleontological benediction can then incorporate this testimony of the rocks into their own morphological and functional investigations. We have presented such papers on the otic region (e.g., Lombard and Bolt 1988), and remain convinced of their value, in fact of their necessity in evolutionary biology. However, the usefulness of a scientific paper is heavily dependent on the reader’s ability to assess the quality of both the data and interpretations presented. In the present context, factors affecting “quality” include accuracy of observation, state of preservation of fossils, techniques used to estimate relationships among species and higher taxa, and evidence and assumptions employed in inferences of function. Paleontologists often, and nonpaleontologists nearly inevitably, overlook these points when considering otic evolution.


High Taxon Otic Capsule Skull Roof Terminal Taxon Original Illustration 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • John R. Bolt
  • R. Eric Lombard

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