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Editor-in-Chief: Denys, Christiane

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Volume 68, Issue 2-3


Development of tusks and associated structures in Mesoplodon bidens (Cetaceae, Mammalia)

Colin D. Macleod
  • 1. Department of Zoology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ (United Kingdom)
  • Other articles by this author:
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/ Jerry S. Herman
  • 2. Department of Geology and Zoology, National Museums of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF (United Kingdom)
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Published Online: 2007-07-10 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mamm.2004.018

This study examined the development of the tusks and associated skeletal structures in a series of 18 specimens of Sowerby’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon bidens) from Scotland. The relative position of the tusks along the length of the mandible was found to move from 23% of mandible length from the anterior extremity in the smallest animal to around 37% in adults, due to a lengthening of the symphyseal region. A previously undescribed sexual dimorphism was noted, a bony abutment, or ossicular dental support, situated directly posterior to the erupted tusks of adult males. Ontogenetic changes associated with male maturity include an increase in tusk length, an increase in the length of the alveolus, a high level of wear on tusks, an increase in the depth of the mandible posterior to the alveolus, an increased level of mesorostral ossification and an overall thickening of the rostrum and the symphyseal region of the mandible. The tusks are presumed to be used in intraspecific aggressive interactions and the ossicular dental support may counteract backward and outward forces on them as they cut through an opponents flesh, while the thickening of the rostrum and mandible may reduce the risk of damage when the two animals make contact.

Key Words: Cetacea,; tusks,; growth,; sexual dimorphism.

About the article

Published Online: 2007-07-10

Published in Print: 2004-10-01

Citation Information: Mammalia, Volume 68, Issue 2-3, Pages 175–184, ISSN (Online) 1864-1547, ISSN (Print) 0025-1461, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mamm.2004.018.

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