Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

Osteological variation and taxonomic affinities of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops spp., from South Australia

Catherine M. Kemper

Australian Journal of Zoology 52(1) 29 - 48
Published: 15 March 2004


Skulls and skeletons of 84 cranially mature bottlenose dolphins collected from South Australia were studied to distinguish morphological groups. The dataset comprised 38 skull measurements, 5 tooth counts/measurements, 6 coded skull features and 2 vertebral counts. There was no significant difference between sexes. Agglomerative, heirarchical cluster analyses performed on all variables and a dataset refined by eliminating those with high partial correlations produced two clear groups of skulls but with some differences in group membership between the statistical treatments. Size was an important factor in distinguishing groups, especially when categorical variables were excluded. Groups produced by cluster analysis of all variables were aligned with Tursiops truncatus and T. aduncus. In general, Tursiops truncatus was distinguished by a wide band (3-9 mm) of cancellous bone on the premaxillae, a distinct supraoccipital crest, raised naso-frontal complex, the almost complete lack of bone resorption on the pterygoid bones, a relatively wider rostrum, generally larger skull size (condylobasal length >465 mm versus <476 mm, except two skulls of 445 and 448 mm), and more than 60 vertebrae. This species was collected from open ocean coasts and sometimes stranded in groups. Tursiops aduncus generally had a narrow or no band of cancellous bone (0-5 mm), an indistinct or no supraoccipital crest, a naso-frontal complex that was not markedly raised, moderate to extensive bone resorption on the pterygoids, relatively narrow rostrum, fewer than 63 vertebrae and was collected mainly from the large gulfs. There was no significant difference between tooth diameter of T. aduncus and T. truncatus from South Australia.

© CSIRO 2004

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