Micro‐anatomy of the ear of the southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum)

Mickaël P Robert, Ann Carstens, Frederik C de Beer, Jakobus W Hoffman, Gerhard Steenkamp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The white rhinoceros is the largest of the five extant rhinoceros species. The population is declining rapidly because of intense poaching. However, normal anatomical descriptions in this species are lacking. The purpose of this study is to describe the osseous anatomy of the middle and inner ear of the southern white rhinoceros using micro-focus X-ray computed tomography imaging. Four temporal bones obtained from two 1-day old southern white rhinoceros preserved in 10% formalin were scanned. Tri-dimensional reconstructions were obtained and volumes of the middle ear ossicles and inner ear structures were calculated. Excellent high spatial resolution 3D images were obtained for all samples and virtual models of the auditory ossicles and bony labyrinth were generated. Visualization of the tympanic membrane, middle ear and inner ear structures was possible in all samples. Whereas the stapes and incus had a shape similar to their human or equine counterparts, the malleus showed a unique appearance with a long rostral branch projecting latero-distally to the manubrium. The cochlea described 2 turns rostro-laterally around its axis, with a medial direction of rotation. However, identification of the soft tissue structures of the middle ear was sometimes difficult and visualization of the small structures of the membranous labyrinth was not possible using this formalin fixation and alternative techniques should be investigated. Further investigations are needed in order to provide a complete virtual model including both soft and bone tissues of this difficultly accessible region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-232
Number of pages8
JournalAnatomia, Histologia, Embryologia: journal of veterinary medicine series C
Issue number2
Early online date11 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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