Endothiodon cf. bathystoma (Synapsida: Dicynodontia) bony labyrinth anatomy, variation and body mass estimates

Ricardo Araújo, Vincent Fernandez, Richard D. Rabbitt, Eric G. Ekdale, Miguel T. Antunes, Rui Castanhinha, Jörg Fröbisch, Rui M. S. Martins

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24 Citations (Scopus)


The semicircular canal (SC) system of the inner ear detects head angular accelerations and is essential for navigation and spatial awareness in vertebrates. Because the bony labyrinth encloses the membranous labyrinth SCs, it can be used as a proxy for animal behavior. The bony labyrinth of dicynodonts, a clade of herbivorous non-mammalian synapsids, has only been described in a handful of individuals and remains particularly obscure. Here we describe the bony labyrinth anatomy of three Endothiodon cf. bathystoma specimens from Mozambique based on digital reconstructions from propagation phase-contrast synchrotron micro-computed tomography. We compare these findings with the bony labyrinth anatomy of their close relative Niassodon. The bony labyrinths of Endothiodon and Niassodon are relatively similar and show only differences in the shape of the horizontal SCs and the orientation of the vertical SCs. When compared to extant mammals, Endothiodon and Niassodon have highly eccentric SCs. In addition, the Endothiodon SCs are nearly orthogonal. An eccentric and orthogonal SC morphology is consistent with a specialization in rapid head movements, which are typical of foraging or feeding behaviors. Furthermore, we estimate the body mass of these Endothiodon specimens at ∼116 to 182 kg, based on the average SC radii calculated using a linear regression model optimized by the Amemiya Prediction Criterion. Our findings provide novel insights into the paleobiology of Endothiodon which are consistent with the peculiar feeding mechanism among dicynodonts presumed from their multiple postcanine toothrows. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0189883
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


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