BGDB Face and Ear - Early Embryo

From Embryology
Practical 6: Trilaminar Embryo | Early Embryo | Late Embryo | Fetal | Postnatal | Abnormalities | Quiz

Week 4

During week 4 a number of features appear visible on the embryo surface:

  • At the level of the body heart, liver, somite bulges and limb buds appear.
  • At the level of the head sensory placodes and pharyngeal arches appear.

Carnegie Stage 12 to 14

Week 4

Stage 11

Stage11 sem13c.jpg Stage11 sem20c.jpg

This is a scanning EM of the embryo superior dorsal view showing the paired otic placodes sinking into the surface at the level of the hindbrain between day 24 and day 25

Human Embryo (Stage 11)
Stage11 sem8.jpg
Stage11 sem81.jpg
Stage11 bf9.jpg Stage11 sem3b.jpg Stage11 sem3b.gif

Stage 12

Stage12 sem1c.jpg Stage12 bf2c.jpgStage12 bf1c.jpg

Stage12 sem4.jpg Stage12 sem5.jpg

Week 5

Stage 13

Stage13 sem1c.jpg Stage13 bf1c.jpg Stage13 sem2c.jpg

Surface view Central Nervous System

Sensory Placodes

Sensory placodes develop as small patches of ectodermal thickenings.

The placodes are laterally paired and contribute key components to sensory structures of the ear, eye and nose.

Named by the sensory system and components they will form: otic placode, optic (lens) placode and nasal placode.

Stage 13

Otic placode forms the otocyst

Stage 13 image 051.jpg

Stage 13 image 052.jpg

Stage 13 image 053.jpg

Stage 13 image 054.jpg

Stage 13 image 055.jpg

Identify the structure and position of the otic vesicle (otocyst) relative to other head structures.

Stage 15

Stage 15

Stage15 sagittal section upper half 01.jpg

Later week 5 development showing a sagittal section upper half of human embryo.

Pharyngeal Arches

Head arches cartoon.jpg Pharyngeal arch structure cartoon.gif

Stage 13 Pharyngeal Arches

Stage13 pharyngeal arch excerpts.gif

Section Images: A6L  A7L  B1L  B2L  B3L  B4L  B5L  B6L

Look through the above cross-sections of the stage 13 embryo observing and identifying structures of the face and ear visible at this stage.

Pharyngeal arch cartilages.jpg

Structures derived from Arches

Pharyngeal Arch Nerve Artery Neural Crest
(Skeletal Structures)
Muscles Ligaments
trigeminal (V) maxillary artery (terminal branches) mandible, maxilla, malleus, incus muscles of mastication, mylohyoid, tensor tympanic, ant. belly digastric ant lig of malleus, sphenomandibular ligament
facial (VII) stapedial (embryonic)

corticotympanic (adult)

stapes, styloid process, lesser cornu of hyoid, upper part of body of hyoid bone muscles of facial expression, stapedius, stylohyoid, post. belly digastric stylohyoid ligament
3 glossopharyngeal (IX) common carotid, internal carotid arteries greater cornu of hyoid, lower part of body of hyoid bone stylopharyngeus
4 vagus (X) superior laryngeal branch part of aortic arch (left), part right subclavian artery (right) thyroid, cricoid, arytenoid, corniculate and cuneform cartilages crycothyroid, soft palate levator veli palatini (not tensor veli palatini)
6 vagus (X) recurrent laryngeal branch part of left pulmonary artery (left), part of right pulmonary artery (right) thyroid, cricoid, arytenoid, corniculate and cuneform cartilages larynx intrinsic muscles (not cricothyroid muscle)

Additional Information

Additional Information - Content shown under this heading is not part of the material covered in this class. It is provided for those students who would like to know about some concepts or current research in topics related to the current class page.

Other Sensory Systems

The links below are to additional information providing background about each of the sensory systems. Only hearing is covered in today's class.

Hearing cartoon.jpg Stage 22 image 153.jpg Stage 22 image 209.jpg Tongue - taste cartoon.jpg
Hearing Development
Vision Development
Smell Development
Taste Development
Hearing Links: Introduction | inner ear | middle ear | outer ear | balance | Hearing - Neural Pathway | Science Lecture | Lecture Movie | Medicine Lecture | Stage 22 | Abnormalities | hearing test | Sensory Introduction | Placodes | Student project

  Categories: Hearing | Outer Ear | Middle Ear | Inner Ear Balance

Historic Hearing Embryology 
Historic Embryology: 1880 Platypus cochlea | 1902 Development of Hearing | 1906 Membranous Labyrinth | 1910 Auditory Nerve | 1913 Tectorial Membrane | 1918 Human Embryo Otic Capsule | 1918 Cochlea | 1918 Grays Anatomy | 1922 Human Auricle | 1922 Otic Primordia | 1931 Internal Ear Scalae | 1932 Otic Capsule 1 | 1933 Otic Capsule 2 | 1936 Otic Capsule 3 | 1933 Endolymphatic Sac | 1934 Otic Vesicle | 1934 Membranous Labyrinth | 1938 Stapes - 7 to 21 weeks | 1938 Stapes - Term to Adult | 1942 Stapes - Embryo 6.7 to 50 mm | 1943 Stapes - Fetus 75 to 150 mm | 1948 Stapes - Fetus 160 mm to term | 1959 Auditory Ossicles | 1963 Human Otocyst | Historic Disclaimer
Vision Links: vision | lens | retina | placode | extraocular muscle | cornea | eyelid | vision abnormalities | Student project 1 | Student project 2 | Category:Vision
Historic Embryology  
1906 Eye Embryology | 1907 Development Atlas | 1912 Eye Development | 1912 Nasolacrimal Duct | 1918 Grays Anatomy | 1921 Eye Development | 1922 Optic Primordia | 1925 Iris | 1927 Oculomotor | 1928 Human Retina | 1928 Retina | 1928 Hyaloid Canal | Historic Disclaimer
Smell Links: Introduction | Placodes | Rhinencephalon | Head Development | Student project | Taste | Sensory Systems | Category:Smell
Historic Embryology: 1902 Olfactory Structures | 1940 Olfactory and Accessory Olfactory Formations

Neural Crest

During this period neural crest cells migrate into the pharyngeal arches and other head locations, and have an important contribution to many different head structures. Neural crest cells at other levels contribute to body many structures. There are also many developmental abnormalities associated with abnormal neural crest development and/or migration. This topic is beyond the scope of the current class.

Links: Neural Crest Development
Cranial neural crest skeletal fate 01.jpg Cranial neural crest contribution to skeletal structures

The embryo figure shows colonization of the head and pharyngeal arches by diencephalic, anterior and posterior mesencephalic, and rhombencephalic neural crest cells (NCCs), as indicated by the colour code. The diagram is representative human embryos, although the NCC migratory pathways might differ slightly in different species. The skull drawings show contributions of NCC populations to cranial skeletal elements of humans, based on NCC fate-mapping studies and on extrapolation of avian and mouse data to known homologues in the human.

Some bones, including the squamosal (SQ), alisphenoid (AS), and pterygoid (PT), are shown with mixed contribution from different NCC populations. Note that in mammals the frontal (FR) and parietal (PA) bones have been reported to be of neural crest and mesodermal origin, respectively.

There has been controversy about the neural crest embryonic contribution to the parietal region. A recent transcriptional analysis of second trimester human cranial compartments[1] suggests that "a gene expression signature of neural crest origin still exists in frontal and metopic compartments while gene expression of parietal and sagittal compartments is more similar to mesoderm."

  • frontal bone - neural crest
  • parietal bone - mesoderm
  • BA1-BA3 - pharyngeal arches 1 - 3
  • di - diencephalon
  • FNP - frontonasal process
  • HY - hyoid bone
  • IN - incus
  • MA - malleus
  • mes - mesencephalon
  • MX - maxillary bone
  • NA - nasal bone
  • R1–R7 - rhombomeres 1 – 7
  • ST - stapes
  • ZY - zygomatic bone


  1. Negar Homayounfar, Sarah S Park, Zahra Afsharinejad, Theodor K Bammler, James W MacDonald, Federico M Farin, Brigham H Mecham, Michael L Cunningham Transcriptional analysis of human cranial compartments with different embryonic origins. Arch. Oral Biol.: 2015, 60(9);1450-1460 PubMed 26188427
  2. Fabio Santagati, Filippo M Rijli Cranial neural crest and the building of the vertebrate head. Nat. Rev. Neurosci.: 2003, 4(10);806-18 PubMed 14523380 | Nat Rev Neurosci.

Practical 6: Trilaminar Embryo | Early Embryo | Late Embryo | Fetal | Postnatal | Abnormalities | Quiz

BGDB: Lecture - Gastrointestinal System | Practical - Gastrointestinal System | Lecture - Face and Ear | Practical - Face and Ear | Lecture - Endocrine | Lecture - Sexual Differentiation | Practical - Sexual Differentiation | Tutorial

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2018, April 21) Embryology BGDB Face and Ear - Early Embryo. Retrieved from

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© Dr Mark Hill 2018, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G