Journal of Veterinary Medical Science (2004)

DOI: 10.1292/jvms.66.761


Morphology of the modern cetaceans represents the results of adaptation of the ancestral terrestrial mammals to aquatic life through their evolutional processes. Some of the primitive fossil cetaceans are known to have both fore and hind limbs, whereas the pelvic bones of modern cetaceans are, in general, a pair of slender rod-like structures within the abdominal wall muscles just anterior to the anus with no articulations to the axial skeleton in poth sexies. It is interesting and important to consider the causes and processes of how the hind limbs were lost and how the pelvis was reduced during the process of adaptation. In the present study, we tried to evaluate the topography and function of rudimentary pelvic bones of the finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides), one of the members of the odontocete cetaceans, with special references to the structures around the pelvic bones. Some soft tissues such as M. ischiocavernosus relating to the pelvic bone are transformed following the drastic reduction of the pelvis. This transformation tells us that the cetaceans adapted to the aquatic life during evolutional processes chose the tail flukes driven by the powerful trunk muscles for locomotion, instead of modifying the hind limbs into hind flippers as seen in pinnipeds. On the other hand, it is evident that a function of the pelvic bones of the male finless porpoise was supporting the penis as those of terrestrial mammals. It is noteworthy that the morphological features of the ancestral terrestrial mammals can be traced when they are carefully compared with those of the finless porpoise.