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Allometric patterns of fetal head growth in mysticetes and odontocetes: Comparison of Balaena mysticetus and Stenella attenuata



Unlike other mammals, odontocetes and mysticetes have highly derived craniofacial bones. A growth process referred to as “telescoping” is partly responsible for this morphology. Here, we explore how changes in facial morphology during fetal growth relate to differences in telescoping between the adult odontocete Stenella attenuata and the mysticete Balaena mysticetus. We conclude that in both Stenella and Balaena head size increases allometrically. Similarly, odontocete nasal length and mysticete mouth size have strong positive allometry compared to total body length. However, the differences between odontocetes and mysticetes in telescoping are not directly associated with their fetal growth patterns. Our results suggest that cranial changes related to echolocation and feeding between odontocetes and mysticetes, respectively, begin during ontogeny before telescoping is initiated.