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The Toothed Whales Odontocetes

The Toothed Whales
Odontocetes

The Toothed Whales - Sperm Whale Copyright Stan Klos


Existine Cetaceans are divided into two great primary groups, the one comprising the true, or whalebone whales, in which the place of teeth is taken by baleen or " whalebone," and the toothed whales, characterized by the presence of functional teeth, at least in the lower jaw. These two groups differ from one another in many important respects, and if they are derived from a single stock, their common ancestor must have existed at a comparatively remote epoch. Dr. Kukenthal is, however, of opinion, that the whalebone and the toothed whales have originated independently of one another from totally distinct groups of terrestrial mammals. If this view be ultimately maintained, it will be evident that the Cetacean order, as at present constituted, is a heterogeneous group; while we should have a most remarkable instance of the power of adaptation to a particular mode of life of producing similarity in form.

The whole of the remainder of the existing Cetaceans form a group distinguished from the preceding one by the absence of whalebone, and the presence of permanent teeth in at least the lower jaw. This group, comprising existing families, is known as the Odontoceti, or Toothed Cetaceans, in contradistinction to the Mystacoceti, or Whalebone Whales.

In addition to the presence of teeth, the group is also characterized by the following distinctive features. The two nostrils unite before they reach the surface, and thus open by a single aperture, which usually takes the form of a crescentic valvular slit placed transversely to the long axis of the head. In the skull the bones of the upper surface are arranged unsymmetrically on the sides; the nasal bones in existing forms being reduced to nodules, taking no share in roofing over the cavity of the nostrils. The two branches of the lower jaw are nearly straight, and of great vertical extent behind, while in front they come in contact with one another by flattened surfaces of larger or smaller extent, as is ordinarily the case among mammals. The ribs are more firmly joined to the rest of the skeleton than in the whalebone whales, several of the anterior pairs articulating with the bodies as well as with the horizontal transverse processes of the vertebrae, while below they are joined to the breast-bone by the intervention of so-called chest-ribs; the breast-bone itself usually consisting of several distinct portions, placed one behind the other. In all cases the flippers have five digits. 
 -- The Royal Natural History: Mammals, birds By Richard Lydekker - 1895 Edited by Stanley L. Klos 1999


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