[MARMAM] New publication: NARLUGA (Beluga X Narhwal) 3D SKULL MORPHOLOGY

Deborah Vicari vicarideborah.89 at gmail.com
Sat Aug 13 05:10:32 PDT 2022

Dear colleagues,

My co-authors and I are pleased to share our new publication: “Skull
ecomorphological variation of narwhals (*Monodon monoceros*, Linnaeus 1758)
and belugas (*Delphinapterus leucas*, Pallas 1776) reveals phenotype of
their hybrids”. The 3D skull of the narluga hybrid can be downloaded from
the supporting information (S1 File.PLY). Suggested free software to read
the PLY file: MeshLab.

Vicari D, Lorenzen ED, Skovrind M, Szpak P, Louis M, Olsen MT, et al.
(2022) Skull ecomorphological variation of narwhals (*Monodon monoceros*,
Linnaeus 1758) and belugas (*Delphinapterus leucas*, Pallas 1776) reveals
phenotype of their hybrids. PLoS ONE 17(8): e0273122.


Narwhals and belugas are toothed whales belonging to the Monodontidae.
Belugas have a circumpolar Arctic and sub-Artic distribution while narwhals
are restricted to the Atlantic Arctic. Their geographical ranges overlap
during winter migrations in the Baffin Bay area (Canada/West Greenland) and
successful interbreeding may occur. Here, we employed geometric
morphometrics on museum specimens to explore the cranium and mandible
morphology of a known hybrid (NHMD MCE 1356) and the cranium morphology of
a putative hybrid (NHMD 1963.44.1.4) relative to skull morphological
variation in the parental species. Specifically, we used 3D models of
skulls from 69 belugas, 86 narwhals, and the two known/putative hybrids and
2D left hemi-mandibles from 20 belugas, 64 narwhals and the known hybrid.
Skull shape analyses allowed clear discrimination between species. Narwhals
are characterised by a relatively short rostrum and wide neurocranium while
belugas show a more elongated and narrower cranium. Sexual size dimorphism
was detected in narwhals, with males larger than females, but no sexual
shape dimorphism was detected in either species (excluding presence/absence
of tusks in narwhals). Morphological skull variation was also dependent on
different allometric slopes between species and sexes in narwhals. Our
analyses showed that the cranium of the known hybrid was phenotypically
close to belugas but its 2D hemi-mandible had a narwhal shape and size
morphology. Both cranium and mandible were strongly correlated, with the
pattern of covariation being similar to belugas. The putative hybrid was a
pure male narwhal with extruded teeth. Comparison of genomic DNA supported
this result, and stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values suggested that
the putative hybrid had a more benthic foraging strategy compared to
narwhals. This work demonstrates that although the known hybrid could be
discriminated from narwhals and belugas, detection of its affinities with
these parental species was dependent on the part of the skull analysed.

The full Open Access paper can be downloaded from

A blog on the narluga story is also available at

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions: D.Vicari at outlook.com


Deborah Vicari


Deborah Vicari Ph.D.

Ph.D. in Odontoceti 3D Skull Ecomorphology

LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/deborah-vicari

Twitter: @deborah_vicari

Deborah Vicari

Ph.D. in Odontoceti 3D Skull Ecomorphology

LinkedIn <http://www.linkedin.com/in/deborah-vicari>
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