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Keywords:

  • Phocoenidae;
  • morphology;
  • biogeography;
  • polymorphic data;
  • frequency step matrix

Abstract

Prior studies of phylogenetic relationships among phocoenids based on morphology and molecular sequence data conflict and yield unresolved relationships among species. This study evaluates a comprehensive set of cranial, postcranial, and soft anatomical characters to infer interrelationships among extant species and several well-known fossil phocoenids, using two different methods to analyze polymorphic data: polymorphic coding and frequency step matrix. Our phylogenetic results confirmed phocoenid monophyly. The division of Phocoenidae into two subfamilies previously proposed was rejected, as well as the alliance of the two extinct genera Salumiphocaena and Piscolithax with Phocoena dioptrica and Phocoenoides dalli. Extinct phocoenids are basal to all extant species. We also examined the origin and distribution of porpoises within the context of this phylogenetic framework. Phocoenid phylogeny together with available geologic evidence suggests that the early history of phocoenids was centered in the North Pacific during the middle Miocene, with subsequent dispersal into the southern hemisphere in the middle Pliocene. A cooling period in the Pleistocene allowed dispersal of the southern ancestor of Phocoena sinus into the North Pacific (Gulf of California).