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Dr Matthew James Mason

I study the structure, function and evolution of the vertebrate ear.
Dr Matthew James Mason

University Physiologist

Office Phone: +44 (0) 1223 333829, Fax: +44 (0) 1223 333840

Research Interests

My research involves examining a wide range of different vertebrate ears, using techniques such as light microscopy, electron microscopy and micro-CT scanning. I then use models of middle ear function to investigate the likely hearing range of the animal in question, in order to answer questions about how hearing is matched to particular acoustical properties of the environment that the animal lives in, and how the ear might have evolved. My two main research streams involve mammalian and amphibian ears.

Considering mammalian ears, I have long been interested in how small mammals can be adapted towards detecting low-frequency sound. For example, golden moles have relatively enormous ear ossicles, which may allow these burrowing African insectivores to detect ground vibrations by means of bone conduction. In my frog work, I have been interested in how the middle ear structures vibrate, and how the intricate structure of the inner ear helps with hearing.



Prof Peter Narins

Prof Pim van Dijk


Course organiser: Physiology of Organisms

PoO, HOM and NST 1B Physiology

Key Publications

Mason MJ, (2016), Structure and function of the mammalian middle ear. I: Large middle ears in small desert mammals, Journal of Anatomy, 228: 284-299

Mason MJ, (2016), Structure and function of the mammalian middle ear. II: Inferring function from structure, Journal of Anatomy, 228: 300-312

Mason MJ, (2015), Functional morphology of rodent middle ears, in Evolution of the Rodents: Advances in Phylogeny, Functional Morphology and Development, 373-404. Cox, P.G. & Hautier, L. (eds). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Mason MJ, Segenhout JM, Cobo-Cuan A, Quiñones PM, Van Dijk P, (2015), The frog inner ear: picture perfect? Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, 16: 171-188

Mason MJ, (2013), Of mice, moles and guinea-pigs: functional morphology of the middle ear in living mammals, Hearing Research, 301: 4-18

Mason MJ, Farr MRB, (2013), Flexibility within the middle ears of vertebrates, Journal of Laryngology & Otology, 127: 2-14

Lavender D, Taraskin SN, Mason MJ, (2011), Mass distribution and rotational inertia of "microtype" and "freely mobile" middle ear ossicles in rodents, Hearing Research, 282: 97-107

Van Dijk P, Mason MJ, Schoffelen RLM, Narins PM, Meenderink SWF, (2011), Mechanics of the frog ear, Hearing Research 273: 46-58

Veselka N, McErlain DD, Holdsworth DW, Eger JL, Chhem RK, Mason MJ, Brain KL, Faure PA, Fenton MB, (2010), A bony connection signals laryngeal echolocation in bats, Nature, 463: 939-942

Above: Internal view of the left middle ear apparatus of a vole. The stapes footplate, projecting towards the viewer, would normally be contained within the oval window, the entrance to the inner ear.

Above: Micro-CT scan of the skull of the extraordinary elephant-shrew Macroscelides. Its middle ear cavities, contained within the swollen regions of the skull which are shaded in red, have a combined volume 30% greater than brain volume! See Mason (2015).