Anna Pyttlik

PhD Candidate


 PhD Thesis

Evolvability of the inner ear
Supervisors: Philipp Mitteröcker

 About me

I am a PhD student under the supervision of Philipp Mitteröcker, focusing on the evolvability of inner and middle ears in birds and mammals for my dissertation. My research involves analyzing data using multivariate statistics and geometric morphometrics to investigate the evolvability (capacity for adaptive evolution) in the hard tissue ear morphology of birds and mammals.

A central aim of my project is to explore how the evolvability of the mammalian middle and inner ear has contributed to their evolutionary success. This hypothesis suggests that the complex development and structure of the mammalian ear have played a significant role in their initial radiation as predominantly nocturnal, hearing-reliant animals, as well as their subsequent adaptive diversification into a wide range of ecological niches. This diversification is exemplified by the significant morphological variation seen in the bony labyrinth of mammals.

My doctoral research seeks to address gaps in scholarly knowledge by investigating the integration, modularity, and evolvability of ear morphology in both mammals and birds. A key question is how the different, tightly connected parts of the ear have adapted independently to diverse functional and environmental demands. Understanding this will shed light on how mammals have successfully occupied such a wide range of niches in aquatic, terrestrial, subterranean, and aerial environments, each requiring distinct adaptations in locomotion, posture, and hearing abilities.