Latitudinal gradients in the skull shape and assemblage structure of delphinoid cetaceans

Matthew R. Mccurry, Travis Park, Ellen J. Coombs, Lachlan J. Hart, Shawn Laffan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Within delphinoid cetaceans, snout shape is significantly correlated to diet, with long-snouted raptorial-feeding predators preying on smaller and more agile prey than shorter-snouted species. Although there have been several studies into longirostry from a functional perspective there have been no quantitative analyses of spatial variation in skull shape or how the pattern in skull shape morphospace occupation varies between assemblages. Here we analyse the cranial morphological variation of Delphinoidea assemblages. Firstly, we calculate mean and Gi∗ hotspot statistics of skull shape across the world's oceans. We find that tropical and subtropical assemblages exhibit higher average measures of longirostry. This pattern is likely caused by differences in the availability of certain prey types in warmer and cooler environments. Secondly, we calculate mean pairwise distance as well as mean nearest taxon distance in functional traits between the members of 119 unique delphinoid assemblages. There was a trend for low latitude assemblages to exhibit greater overdispersion in PC1 (snout length) compared those from high latitudes. Our results suggest that ocean temperature is influential in determining the diversity, range limits and assemblage structure of delphinoid cetaceans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)470-480
Number of pages11
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • biogeography
  • community structure
  • feeding
  • latitude
  • morphology
  • Odontoceti
  • temperature

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