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1 June 2006 MANDIBULAR AND DENTAL VARIATION AND THE EVOLUTION OF SUCTION FEEDING IN ODONTOCETI
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Abstract

Comprehensive morphometric analysis of osteological and necropsy specimens indicates that blunt heads and wide jaws, both of which create a more circular mouth opening and thus improve water flow for suction feeding, are common in Odontoceti and found in all families except freshwater river dolphins (Platanistoidea), which are exclusively long-snouted. Mandibular bluntness, here termed amblygnathy, correlates with dental reduction in odontocetes; there is a further association of reduced dentition with increased body length. Examination of quantitative data reveals that many odontocetes, especially globicephaline delphinids, have a blunter cranial profile (partly from facial musculature and other soft tissues) and fewer exposed teeth for grasping prey than is generally supposed, especially when the researcher relies solely on examination of skeletal materials. Numerous teeth present in cleaned skulls and jaws remain unerupted even in adults, as verified by necropsy tooth counts, rendering tooth counts from museum specimens unreliable indicators of in vivo conditions. Amblygnathy and smaller, rounder mouth openings correlate with other anatomical, ecological, and behavioral traits associated with suction feeding. It is likely that odontocete suction ingestion evolved independently in multiple lineages from use of suction to transport grasped prey in long-jawed ancestors, with consequent loss of the grasp and transport step as prey are sucked directly into the oral cavity or oropharynx.

Alexander J. Werth "MANDIBULAR AND DENTAL VARIATION AND THE EVOLUTION OF SUCTION FEEDING IN ODONTOCETI," Journal of Mammalogy 87(3), 579-588, (1 June 2006). https://doi.org/10.1644/05-MAMM-A-279R1.1
Accepted: 1 October 2005; Published: 1 June 2006
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