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Phenotypic variation in dorsal fin morphology of coastal bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) off Mexico
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    PeerJ 5:e3415
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    Geographic variation in external morphology is thought to reflect an interplay between genotype and the environment. Morphological variation has been well-described for a number of cetacean species, including the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). In this study we analyzed dorsal fin morphometric variation in coastal bottlenose dolphins to search for geographic patterns at different spatial scales. A total of 533 dorsal fin images from 19 available photo-identification catalogs across the three Mexican oceanic regions (Pacific Ocean n = 6, Gulf of California n = 6 and, Gulf of Mexico n = 7) were used in the analysis. Eleven fin shape measurements were analyzed to evaluate fin polymorphism through multivariate tests. Principal Component Analysis on log-transformed standardized ratios explained 94% of the variance. Canonical Discriminant Function Analysis on factor scores showed separation among most study areas (p < 0.05) with exception of the Gulf of Mexico where a strong morphometric cline was found. Possible explanations for the observed differences are related to environmental, biological and evolutionary processes. Shape distinction between dorsal fins from the Pacific and those from the Gulf of California were consistent with previously reported differences in skull morphometrics and genetics. Although the functional advantages of dorsal fin shape remains to be assessed, it is not unlikely that over a wide range of environments, fin shape may represent a trade-off among thermoregulatory capacity, hydrodynamic performance and the swimming/hunting behavior of the species.
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