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Keywords:

  • Caperea marginata;
  • pygmy right whale;
  • length estimation;
  • baleen;
  • physical maturity;
  • weaning;
  • skeleton;
  • Australia;
  • New Zealand;
  • Cetacea;
  • Neobalaenidae

Abstract

Various parts of the skeleton and/or the longest baleen plate of 46 specimens of Caperea marginata from Australia and New Zealand were measured and related to body length. Of the 32 skull, postcranial and baleen-plate measurements available, eight were analysed and seven found to be good predictors of body length, by using a curvilinear model describing their relationship with body length. Greatest skull width, supraoccipital length and mandible length had the smallest prediction limits (± 0.28-0.33 m in small animals, ±0.44-0.58 m in large animals) when compared with postcranial measurements (scapula length, vertebra 7 centrum width). Baleen-plate length was also a useful predictor of body length (±0.32-0.77 m). There was a substantial increase in the arch of the skull as body length increased. Bulla length was not a good predictor of body length, because measurements were highly variable and because the bulla grew little during postnatal life. Physical maturity occurred at body lengths of at least 5.9 m, also the shortest length at which both epiphyses of the humerus and proximal epiphyses of the radius and ulna were fused. Weaning appears to occur at about 3-3.5 m. The following approximate relative age/length classes were erected: dependent calves, <3.6 m; subadults, 3.6-5.5 m; adults, >5.5 m. Females were significantly longer than males in the sample of 22 animals greater than 5.9 m, length of the smallest recorded physically mature animal.