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Barn owl – asymmetrical external ears

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Video of a barn owl head based on microCT scanning, allowing the feathers to be digitally removed to view the skin underneath. Barn owls (Tyto alba) have some of the best hearing among all animals, and are able to localize sounds with great precision, allowing them to hunt in total darkness. Their inner and middle ears are remarkable enough, but this video highlights their highly asymmetrical external ears. The left and right external ear canals are differently shaped, and the left canal is higher than the right. Moreover, they have an external ear flap called the operculum (or pre-aural flap), and the opercula are different sizes and shapes on the left and right sides, collecting sounds preferentially from different locations. These ear flaps enhance the differences in the sounds the two ears hear, which the brain deciphers to provide directional information. Pretty cool! This specimen was scanned by our friends at UTCT (), but analyzed in WitmerLab at Ohio University/ Check out more owl imagery on the WitmerLab Facebook page: .
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