Barn owl (Tyto alba) skull

Skull of a barn owl (NHM S/1981.39.1, from Walsh et al., 2009) scanned at 39µm resolution from a clean osteological specimen. 

As in mammals, the hearing organ of birds is housed in the cochlear duct, seen here as the elongate part of the orange inner ear labyrinth that projects downwards and then in towards the midline. Hearing sensitivity range in birds and reptiles increases with the organ's length. 

Since owls possess one of the longest hearing organs of any bird, they have particularly sensitive hearing (500-9,500Hz) that allows them to locate the vocalisations of small rodents from a considerable distance. In the barn owl the cochlear duct is so long that the two structures almost meet at the midline.


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