Evolutionary Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 299–307

Disparate Heterochronic Processes in Baleen Whale Evolution

Research Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11692-014-9269-4

Cite this article as:
Tsai, CH. & Fordyce, R.E. Evol Biol (2014) 41: 299. doi:10.1007/s11692-014-9269-4


Skulls of living baleen whales show distinctive patterns of heterochronic ontogenetic change with implications for mysticete evolution. Here, three baleen whale species are analysed and considered in a heterochronic context. Landmarks show that, during ontogeny, skull morphology changes significantly in the rorqual Balaenoptera borealis and humpback Megaptera novaeangliae (both Balaenopteridae), while the pygmy right whale Caperea marginata (Cetotheriidae: Neobalaeninae) retains an overall juvenile morphology from foetus to adult. Geometric morphometric analyses show that foetal and adult C. marginata are similar, whereas the balaenopterids are more disparate: foetal M. novaeangliae and B. borealis appear in one group, and adult M. novaeangliae and B. borealis are grouped closely. Heterochrony involves paedomorphosis for Caperea, and peramorphosis for the balaenopterids. Heterochrony might cause limited or released developmental constraints, leading to low taxonomic diversity in the single surviving species of neobalaenine, and higher diversity amongst balaenopterids.


Heterochrony Mysticete Evolution Morphology Ontogeny 

Supplementary material

11692_2014_9269_MOESM1_ESM.doc (46 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 45 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand