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Size and shape variations of the bony components of sperm whale cochleae
Schnitzler, J.G.; Frédérich, B.; Früchtnicht, S.; Schaffeld, T.; Baltzer, J.; Ruser, A.; Siebert, U. (2017). Size and shape variations of the bony components of sperm whale cochleae. NPG Scientific Reports 7: 46734.
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322; e-ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Schnitzler, J.G., more
  • Frédérich, B., more
  • Früchtnicht, S.
  • Schaffeld, T.
  • Baltzer, J.
  • Ruser, A.
  • Siebert, U.

    Several mass strandings of sperm whales occurred in the North Sea during January and February 2016. Twelve animals were necropsied and sampled around 48 h after their discovery on German coasts of Schleswig Holstein. The present study aims to explore the morphological variation of the primary sensory organ of sperm whales, the left and right auditory system, using high-resolution computerised tomography imaging. We performed a quantitative analysis of size and shape of cochleae using landmark-based geometric morphometrics to reveal inter-individual anatomical variations. A hierarchical cluster analysis based on thirty-one external morphometric characters classified these 12 individuals in two stranding clusters. A relative amount of shape variation could be attributable to geographical differences among stranding locations and clusters. Our geometric data allowed the discrimination of distinct bachelor schools among sperm whales that stranded on German coasts. We argue that the cochleae are individually shaped, varying greatly in dimensions and that the intra-specific variation observed in the morphology of the cochleae may partially reflect their affiliation to their bachelor school. There are increasing concerns about the impact of noise on cetaceans and describing the auditory periphery of odontocetes is a key conservation issue to further assess the effect of noise pollution.

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