Sexually Dimorphic Characteristics of Short-Finned Pilot Whales, False Killer Whales, Pygmy Killer Whales, and Melon-Headed Whales Assessed Using Fin and Body Morphometrics from Photographs Taken at Sea

Adults of many free-ranging delphinid species cannot be reliably sexed at sea. Sexually mature, known-sex adult short-finned pilot, pygmy killer, melon-headed, and false killer whales were profiled from at-sea photos to assess proportional fin and body dimorphism. Males of all four species had larger dorsal fins proportional to anterior body length. False killer whales showed no further dimorphism, while melon-headed whales showed subtle dimorphism in dorsal fin overhang. Pygmy killer whales showed subtle dimorphism in lateral positioning of the top-most point and overhang. Lastly, short-finned pilot whales showed strong dimorphism in the leading edge, lateral positioning of the top-most point, and height of the overhang. Generalized linear models showed strong predictive accuracy for pilot and false killer whales, and moderate accuracy for pygmy killer and melon-headed whales. Results indicate that adult short-finned pilot and false killer whales can be accurately sexed in the field or via morphometrics. Adult pygmy killer and melon-headed whales have subtle sexual dimorphism that can be detected using morphometrics. The presence of dimorphism gives insight into potential reproductive strategies and social structure. Further analysis is needed to explore morphometric differences between inshore and pelagic populations of these species, as well as ontogenetic growth between life stages.

Citation:

Yahn, S.N., R.W. Baird, S.D. Mahaffy, and K.M. Robertson. 2022. Sexually Dimorphic Characteristics of Short-Finned Pilot Whales, False Killer Whales, Pygmy Killer Whales, and Melon-Headed Whales Assessed Using Fin and Body Measurements from Photographs Taken at Sea. Marine Mammal Science. doi: 10.1111/mms.12963

Link:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/mms.12963