Stomach anatomy and use in defining systemic relationships of the cetacean family ziphiidae (beaked whales)


  • James G. Mead

    Corresponding author
    1. Marine Mammal Program, Division of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC
    • Marine Mammal Program, Division of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC 20560
    Search for more papers by this author


Members of the Cetacean family Ziphiidae (Beaked whales) exhibit surprising diversity in stomach anatomy, particularly in the number of connecting chambers between the main and pyloric stomachs. Sixty-one stomachs of five beaked whale species were examined, including Berardius, Hyperoodon, Mesoplodon, Tasmacetus, and Ziphius. Specimens were obtained post mortem from beach-stranded individuals, with the exception of 30 Berardius specimens that were taken at a whaling station in Japan. Most specimens were collected by the Marine Mammal Program of the National Museum of Natural History, with the exception of one specimen of Mesoplodon steinegeri, which from the Los Angeles County Museum and one specimen of Tasmacetus from the Museum of New Zealand. Additional data are included from published accounts. A single species was examined for all of the genera but Mesoplodon, where there was material for 7 of 13 known species. The sample of Berardius bairdii was sufficient (n = 30) to determine species-specific variation in compartment counts. Chamber anatomy was explored by means of manual palpation. Results indicate that ziphiid stomachs can be separated into at least three principal groups: generalized ziphiid stomach (one main stomach, one pyloric stomach), derived stomach type I (two main stomachs, one pyloric stomach), and derived stomach type II (two main stomachs, two pyloric stomachs). Generalized stomachs are found in Hyperoodon, Tasmacetus, Ziphius, Mesoplodon densirostris, M. perrini, and M. stejnegeri. Derived stomachs of type I are found in Berardius, and of type II are found in Mesoplodon bidens, M. europaeus, and M. mirus. The ziphiids clearly form a distinct group of cetaceans in their utilization of differences in stomach morphology. These anatomical differences may serve to elucidate systematic relationships among the ziphiids. Further study is necessary to establish whether these differences correlate with specialized adaptations related to an aquatic environment. Anat Rec, 290:581–595, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.