Growth of the skull of the bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, in the Southwest Atlantic Ocean
Keywords:Tursiops truncatus, age, growth, maturity
Defining the age of attainment of physical maturity is important for many studies, including identification of stocks, populations or species. In order to identify the age when the skull of the bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, reaches maturity, skulls of fifty-three specimens found stranded along the coasts of southern Brazil, Uruguay and northern Argentina (27o35’S, 48o34’W-36o49’S, 55o19’W) were analyzed. Sixty skull measurements were taken to compare the growth rate of the different functional apparatuses. Age was estimated by counts of growth layer groups in the dentine of decalcified, stained longitudinal sections of teeth. Von Bertalanffy’s equation was applied to assess the growth and determine the age at maturity of each apparatus. Generally the maturation of skull starts at age two and stabilizes at age five, and the age of reaching the mature size varies amongst different characters. The braincase is the most precocious apparatus, while the feeding is the one that last stabilizes. The development patterns observed for the hearing, vision and breathing apparatuses were similar. Statistic analysis revealed significant differences among the ages at maturity, but not for von Bertalanffy’s growth equation parameters for each functional apparatus. For the studied population it is suggested that skulls can be considered mature in animals with more than
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