[MARMAM] New publication: Variation in female reproductive tract morphology of the common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

Dara Orbach dnorbach at gmail.com
Fri Mar 25 08:30:14 PDT 2016

Dear colleagues,

My co-authors and I are pleased to announce the publication of a new paper:

Orbach DN, Marshall CD, Würsig B, Mesnick SL. 2016. Variation in female
reproductive tract morphology of the common bottlenose dolphins (*Tursiops
truncatus*)*. *The Anatomical Record. 299:520-537. DOI: 10.1002/ar.23318

Cetaceans exhibit vaginal folds, unusual protrusions of the vaginal wall
into the vaginal lumen. Inconsistent terminology and a lack of anatomical
landmarks in the literature have hindered comparative studies of the form
and function of vaginal folds. Our objectives are to: (1) develop a
standardized measurement protocol for the reproductive tracts of female
cetaceans, (2) assess variation in morphometrics within the common
bottlenose dolphin (*Tursiops truncatus*), and (3) determine if vaginal
muscle is skeletal, and therefore of somatic origin in this species. We
selected 15 measurements to characterize female reproductive tracts and
evaluated variability using fresh or frozen-thawed specimens from
southeastern USA representing a range of sexual maturity states and
reproductive states (n = 18 specimens). Presence of skeletal muscle and
variation in the density of muscle banding were assessed using 90
histological samples (n = 5 specimens). Analyses of the gross morphological
data revealed that the dolphins generally had one large vaginal fold that
bisected the vaginal lumen. Vaginal morphology was similar for sexually
mature and immature specimens and across reproductive states. The
histological data revealed that the vaginal musculature consisted of smooth
muscle, consistent with other mammals, leading us to conclude that vaginal
contractions are likely under autonomic rather than somatic control. No
differences were found in the density of smooth muscle banding among
vaginal regions or sexual maturity states. Our systematic protocol lays the
foundation for evaluating the function (e.g., sexual selection, natural
selection) and evolution of vaginal folds.

A pdf is available upon e-mail request to dnorbach at gmail.com


Dara Orbach, Ph.D.
Marine Mammal Behavioral Ecology Group
Department of Marine Biology
Texas A&M University at Galveston

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