alexa Life history constrains biochemical development in the highly specialized odontocete echolocation system.
Agri and Aquaculture

Agri and Aquaculture

Journal of Marine Science: Research & Development

Author(s): Koopman HN

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The vertebrate head has undergone enormous modification from the features borne by early ancestors. The growth of skull bones has been well studied in many species, yet little is known about corresponding soft tissue development. Among mammals, some of the most unusual examples of cranial evolution exist in the toothed whales (odontocetes). Specialized fat bodies in toothed whale heads play important roles in sound transmission and reception. These fat bodies contain unique endogenous lipids, with favourable acoustic properties, arranged in highly organized, three-dimensional patterns. We link variation in developmental rates of acoustic fats with life-history strategy, using bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises. Porpoise acoustic fats attain adult configurations earlier (less than 1 year) and at a faster pace than dolphins. The accelerated lipid accumulation in porpoises reflects the earlier need for fully functional echolocation systems. Dolphins enjoy 3-6 years of maternal care; porpoises must achieve total independence by approximately nine months. Further, a stereotypic 'blueprint' for the spatial distribution of lipids is established prior to birth, demonstrating the highly conserved nature of the intricate biochemical arrangement in acoustic tissues. This system illustrates an unusual case of soft tissue development being constrained by life history, rather than the more commonly observed mechanistic or phyletic constraints.

This article was published in Proc Biol Sci and referenced in Journal of Marine Science: Research & Development

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