Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Cetacean Morphology

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_988-1

Cetacea (whales, dolphins, and porpoises) are mammals fully adapted to life in water so that some typical mammalian traits are not visible from their exterior appearance. The body of cetaceans is streamlined in shape. The head is connected to the body without a distinct neck so that it is merged to a single unit. The large boneless caudal fin (fluke) as the actual organ of locomotion is an evolutionary innovation. It is horizontally orientated and not vertical as in fishes or ichthyosaurs. Accordingly, spine and trunk muscles of cetaceans are designed primarily for dorsoventral movements. Moreover, a boneless connective tissue formation represents the unpaired dorsal fin. Flippers (forelimbs) and dorsal fin only control and stabilize the body’s position while swimming.

The Origin of Modern Cetaceans

At the end of the last century, the knowledge about cetacean fossils was so sparse that one could not be sure what the ancestors of the cetaceans looked like. During the last 25 years,...

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department II of AnatomyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.Department of Comparative Biomedicine & Food ScienceUniversity of PadovaLegnaroItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Lauren Highfill
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyEckerd CollegeSt. PetersburgUSA