Reconstructing cetacean brain evolution using computed tomography


  • Lori Marino,

    Corresponding author
    • Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322
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    • Fax: 404-727-0378

    • Dr. Marino is a senior lecturer in the Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology Program at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, and a Research Associate at both the Living Links Center for the Advanced Study of Human and Ape Evolution at Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center and the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Her research program is focused on comparative brain and behavioral evolution studies of cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises) and primates.

  • Mark D. Uhen,

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    • Dr. Uhen is the Head of Science and Curator of Paleontology and Zoology at Cranbrook Institute of Science. Dr. Uhen's research focuses on the origin and evolution of cetaceans (whales and dolphins), major evolutionary transitions in general, functional morphology, use of stratigraphic data in phylogenetic analysis, and theoretical aspects of diversification.

  • Nicholas D. Pyenson,

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    • Mr. Pyenson, a graduate student in the Dept. of Integrative Biology and Museum of Paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley, is interested in evolutionary development, paleoecology, and major evolutionary adaptations.

  • Bruno Frohlich

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    • Dr. Frohlich is an anthropologist in the Department of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, The Smithsonian Institution. His research includes the studying of mortuary practices in the Middle East and in Alaska, and the application of computed tomography to the study of archaeological artifacts, human remains, and paleobiological specimens.


Until recently, there have been relatively few studies of brain mass and morphology in fossil cetaceans (dolphins, whales, and porpoises) because of difficulty accessing the matrix that fills the endocranial cavity of fossil cetacean skulls. As a result, our knowledge about cetacean brain evolution has been quite limited. By applying the noninvasive technique of computed tomography (CT) to visualize, measure, and reconstruct the endocranial morphology of fossil cetacean skulls, we can gain vastly more information at an unprecedented rate about cetacean brain evolution. Here, we discuss our method and demonstrate it with several examples from our fossil cetacean database. This approach will provide new insights into the little-known evolutionary history of cetacean brain evolution. Anat Rec (Part B: New Anat) 272B:107–117, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.