Ontogeny and evolution of the sound-generating structures in the infraorder Delphinida (Odontoceti: Delphinida)

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  • Guilherme Frainer, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, University of Cologne
  • ,
  • Ignacio B. Moreno, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul
  • ,
  • Nathalia Serpa, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul
  • ,
  • Anders Galatius
  • Dirk Wiedermann, Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research
  • ,
  • Stefan Huggenberger, University of Cologne

The ontogeny of the structures involved in sound generation and modulation in dolphins was investigated through a comparison of the soft nasal structures of foetal, perinatal, neonatal and adult specimens of Pontoporiidae, Phocoenidae and Delphinidae. Foetal samples were sectioned at 10 μm in the saggital and coronal planes, and stained for histological examination. Computed tomography and magentic resonance imaging scan series were combined with new data to represent the ontogenetic stages of the three groups. The images were analysed in 3D-Slicer to characterize the general head topography. The origins of the melon and the vestibular air sac were detected between Carnegie stages C16 and F22. The three groups analysed showed distinct formation of the nasal plug and nasal plug muscles, mainly with regard to the loss of fat pathways (or their maintenance in Pontoporiidae) and the development of the nasal plug muscles on both sides (during perinatal development of Phocoenidae) or just on the left side (during postnatal development in Delphinidae). Broadband vocalizing delphinidans might have evolved under heterochronic events acting on the formation of sound-generating structures such as the rostrum and vestibular air sacs, and on the transformation of the branches of the melon, probably leading to a reduced directionality of the sonar beam.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Volume128
Issue3
Pages (from-to)700-724
Number of pages25
ISSN0024-4066
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

    Research areas

  • character transformation, directionality, echolocation, evolutionary theory, heterochrony, systematics, toothed whales

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