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Keywords:

  • aquatic;
  • adaptation;
  • anatomy;
  • marine mammal;
  • sirenian;
  • cetacean;
  • pinniped;
  • evolution

Abstract

This special issue of the Anatomical Record explores many of the anatomical adaptations exhibited by aquatic mammals that enable life in the water. Anatomical observations on a range of fossil and living marine and freshwater mammals are presented, including sirenians (manatees and dugongs), cetaceans (both baleen whales and toothed whales, including dolphins and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses), the sea otter, and the pygmy hippopotamus. A range of anatomical systems are covered in this issue, including the external form (integument, tail shape), nervous system (eye, ear, brain), musculoskeletal systems (cranium, mandible, hyoid, vertebral column, flipper/forelimb), digestive tract (teeth/tusks/baleen, tongue, stomach), and respiratory tract (larynx). Emphasis is placed on exploring anatomical function in the context of aquatic life. The following topics are addressed: evolution, sound production, sound reception, feeding, locomotion, buoyancy control, thermoregulation, cognition, and behavior. A variety of approaches and techniques are used to examine and characterize these adaptations, ranging from dissection, to histology, to electron microscopy, to two-dimensional (2D) and 3D computerized tomography, to experimental field tests of function. The articles in this issue are a blend of literature review and new, hypothesis-driven anatomical research, which highlight the special nature of anatomical form and function in aquatic mammals that enables their exquisite adaptation for life in such a challenging environment. Anat Rec, 290:507–513, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.