• cetacean;
  • evolution;
  • norepinephrine;
  • rapid eye movement;
  • sleep;
  • slow wave sleep;
  • thermoregulation


Using tyrosine hydroxylase immunohistochemistry we examined the structure of the pontine, or rostral rhombencephalic, catecholaminergic cells groups, which may be collectively termed the locus coeruleus complex (LC), in the bottlenose dolphin. The present study is the first to describe the LC in a cetacean species and, at 1.3 kg, represents the largest non-human brain to date in which the LC has been investigated. We identified four catecholaminergic cell groups in the dorsal pontine tegementum and peri-aqueductal gray matter: A6 dorsal (locus coeruleus), A6 ventral (locus coeruleus alpha), A7 (subcoeruleus), and A5 (fifth arcuate nucleus). No patterns of cellular distribution, nuclear subdivision, or cellular morphology indicate specialization of the LC, which might have been anticipated because of the large absolute brain size and unihemispheric sleep phenomenology of cetaceans.