[MARMAM] a paper on skull morphology: Habitat shapes skull profile of small cetaceans

Pavel Gol'din pavelgoldin412 at gmail.com
Sun May 1 06:33:33 PDT 2016

Dear colleagues,

I am pleased to announce the following upcoming paper in Zoomorphology:

Gol'din, P., and Vishnyakova, K. 2016. Habitat shapes skull profile of
small cetaceans: evidence from geographical variation in Black Sea harbour
porpoises (Phocoena phocoena relicta). Zoomorphology.
doi: 10.1007/s00435-016-0311-1

Morphological differentiation in skull shape in small toothed whales is
sometimes explained as driven by differences in ontogeny or adaptation to a
benthic or pelagic habitat. To test these hypotheses, the comparison was
made, using two-dimensional geometric morphometry, between neighbouring
populations of harbour porpoises from the north-eastern Black Sea and the
adjoining Sea of Azov, from the same genetically isolated subspecies, both
known for their extreme paedomorphosis in body and skull development but
differing in seasonal habitats (very shallow waters vs open sea). There
were major differences between populations in the following traits: in Azov
animals, rostrum was slightly shorter and more deflected downwards;
premaxillary eminences shifted backward and facial region proportionally
longer; more concave facial fossa and higher vertex; lower, downward-facing
foramen magnum. Meanwhile, each of the populations followed its own
ontogenetic trajectory. Therefore, differences in skull shape between
populations were primarily directed by habitat. Shape differences were less
discriminating than size; they might involve both echolocation and feeding
mechanisms and could be associated with suction feeding. These adaptations
were characterized by mixed allometric patterns including both
paedomorphosis and peramorphosis in their ontogeny. Shallow habitat was
found to be critical in forming specific adaptations even for animals
migrating between different habitat types.

The paper can be accessed at:

The authors can be reached by e-mail: pavelgoldin412 at gmail.com

Pavel Gol'din

Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology,
National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine,
Kiev, Ukraine
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