• x-ray;
  • computed tomography;
  • postmortem;
  • Tursiops truncatus;
  • sound speed;
  • melon;
  • Hounsfield unit;
  • density


Postmortem changes in geometry, density, and sound speed within organs and tissues (melon, bone, blubber, and mandibular fat) of the dolphin head were evaluated using computed tomography (CT) scans of live and postmortem bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Specimens were classified into three different treatment groups: live, recently dead, and frozen followed by thawing. Organs and tissues in similar anatomical regions of the head were compared in CT scans of the specimens to identify postmortem changes in morphology. In addition, comparisons of Hounsfield units in the CT scans were used to evaluate postmortem changes in the density of melon, bone, blubber, and mandibular fat. Sound speed measurements from melon, blubber, connective tissue, and muscle were collected from fresh and frozen samples in the same specimen to evaluate effects due to freezing and thawing process on sound speed measurements. Similar results in tissue and organ geometry, density, and sound speed measurements suggested that postmortem material is a reliable approximation for live melon, bone, blubber, muscle, connective tissue, and mandibular fat. These results have implications for examining viscoelastic properties and the accuracy of simulating sound transmission in postmortem material. Anat Rec, 290:1023–1032, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.