Acta Zoologica (2006)

DOI: 10.1111/j.1463-6395.2006.00223.x


Epiphyseal development was investigated on X-rays of flippers from 158 harbour porpoises from Danish waters. Development followed a proximodistal pattern similar to what is known in other cetacean species. Ossification of epiphyses was rare in the phalanges of the first and fifth digits and in the more distal phalanges of the second, third and fourth digits. Along with the morphology of the first metacarpal and the more distal phalanges this suggested paedomorphosis relative to delphinids. Male and female porpoises showed similar progression of epiphyseal development until approximately the sixth year. From then on, female porpoises showed more progressed development than males. This suggests a higher level of paedomorphosis in the male porpoise. The mechanism behind phocoenid paedomorphosis seems to be progenesis, probably as an adaptation towards a high reproductive rate relative to the delphinids.