An internal mandibular fenestra and chamber are found in many fossil hyracoids. The internal mandibular fenestra is located on the lingual surface of the mandibular corpus and opens into a chamber within the mandible. The mandibular chamber is maximally developed in late Eocene Thyrohyrax meyeri and early Oligocene Thyrohyrax domorictus from the Fayum Province of Egypt. The function of this chamber is unknown as it is not found in extant hyraxes, nor is it known to occur in any other mammal. In Thyrohyrax, this feature appears to be sexually dimorphic because it is confined to roughly one half of the specimens that otherwise cannot be separated by dental characteristics or measurements. It has been suggested that the chamber is found in females based on the presumed distribution of this character in other fossil hyracoids. Fossils from Fayum Quarry L-41, preserving the sexually dimorphic anterior dentition, show that, in Thyrohyrax meyeri and Thyrohyrax domorictus, the internal mandibular chamber is found in males. In Thyrohyrax litholagus, an internal mandibular fenestra and inflated mandibular chamber occurs in males whereas females show the variable presence of an internal mandibular fossa or fenestra but lack an expanded chamber. Other genera show differing patterns of sexual variation in which some Fayum hyracoids have an internal mandibular fenestra in both sexes but with the greatest development of the mandibular chamber occurring in males. We review functions proposed for the internal mandibular chamber and suggest that it housed a laryngeal air sac that may have had a vocal function by acting as a resonating chamber. ?? 2006 by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Additional publication details
Sexual dimorphism of the internal mandibular chamber in Fayum Pliohyracidae (Mammalia)