Sexual dimorphism and developmental patterns in the external morphology of the vaquita, Phocoena sinus



A total of 56 vaquitas (Phocoena sinus) were examined to evaluate their sexual dimorphism and isometric and/or allometric growth in 35 external characteristics. Absolute and relative (to total length) measurements and growth rates were compared between sexually immature and mature females and males. T-tests and analysis of variance (ANOVA) and covariance (ANCOVA) were used to evaluate sexual dimorphism. Sexual dimorphism in the vaquita was detected in the total length, head region (from blowhole to tip of upper jaw), anterior section of the body (from dorsal fin to tip of upper jaw), dorsal fin and the genital and anal regions. Fluke width is relatively larger in mature males than immature males, but in females this relative metric does not change during their development. In addition, males present a higher dorsal fin. These somatic changes are probably related to the swimming capacity (speed, agility, maneuvering) during the breeding season and/or foraging activities. A linear model of growth was used to determine possible proportional changes with respect to total body length through the development of 33 external characteristics. The anterior region of the body and the flippers were relatively larger in immature individuals than in mature ones.