Journal of Mammalian Evolution

, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 23–129

Morphological Evidence for the Phylogeny of Cetacea

  • Jonathan H. Geisler
  • Albert E. Sanders

DOI: 10.1023/A:1025552007291

Cite this article as:
Geisler, J.H. & Sanders, A.E. Journal of Mammalian Evolution (2003) 10: 23. doi:10.1023/A:1025552007291


A cladistic analysis of 54 extant and extinct cetacean taxa scored for 304 morphological characters supports a monophyletic Odontoceti, Mysticeti, Autoceta, and Cetacea. Forcing a sister-group relationship between Mysticeti and Physeteridae, as suggested by some, but not all, molecular studies, requires an additional 72 steps. In agreement with recent molecular studies, morphological data divide extant mysticetes into two clades: Balaenopteroidea (Eschrichtiidae + Balaenopteridae) and Balaenoidea (Balaenidae + Neobalaenidae). Cetotheriopsinae is removed from Cetotheriidae, elevated to Family Cetotheriopsidae, and placed within the Superfamily Eomysticetoidea. All extant mysticetes and all cetotheriids are placed in a new Parvorder Balaenomorpha, which is diagnosed by many morphological characters, including fusion of the anterior and posterior processes of petrosal to ectotympanic bulla, pronounced median keel on palate, and absence of ventral margin of sigmoid process of bulla. Many of the clades within Odontoceti in the most parsimonious trees of this study are at odds with recent phylogenetic analyses. For example, Platanistidae is not closely related to the extinct odontocete families Squalodontidae and Squalodelphinidae. Instead, it is more closely related to extant river-dwelling odontocetes (i.e., Lipotes, Inia), suggesting a single dispersal of odontocetes into freshwater habitats. We found several characters to support Physeteroidea (Physeteridae + Ziphiidae), a taxon considered paraphyletic by several molecular and some morphological analyses. Lack of agreement on the phylogeny within Odontoceti indicates that additional analyses, which include molecular and anatomical data as well as extant and extinct taxa, are needed.

Cetacea Odontoceti Mysticeti morphology 

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan H. Geisler
    • 1
  • Albert E. Sanders
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geology and Geography, Georgia Southern MuseumGeorgia Southern UniversityStatesboroUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural SciencesThe Charleston MuseumCharlestonUSA

Personalised recommendations