In the News: A Whale of a Find
In 1859, Darwin suggested that whales arose from bears, sketching a scenario in which selective pressures might cause bears to evolve into whales. But, stunned by criticism, he removed his hypothetical swimming bears from later editions of the Origin of Species. Unsure how to proceed, yet realizing that whales differed from fish, evolutionists sought a new ancestor. Whales are warm-blooded vertebrates that regulate their internal temperature and, like most mammals (the exception being the duck-billed platypus), female whales bear live young, which are nursed by mammary glands. These (and other) features make whales unequivocally mammalian—a fact that poses a significant hurdle for evolutionists.
According to the November 2001 issue of National Geographic, modern-day whales evolved from an animal known as Pakicetus (50 million years ago, allegedly). The artist’s reconstruction of Pakicetus looks very similar to a dog swimming underwater. However, the artist obviously did not take into account the fact that the fossil was discovered in an area containing fossilized remains of terrestrial creatures such as snails, or that it was found in a land stratum, not an aquatic one. This “ancient ancestor” was discovered in 1983 by Philip D. Gingerich, who immediately pronounced the find to be a primitive whale—even though he found only a jaw and a few skull fragments! So what makes National Geographic so sure this creature is a long-lost “walking” ancestor to whales? Chadwick stated:
What causes scientists to declare the creature a whale? Subtle clues in combination—the arrangement of cups on the molar teeth, a folding in a bone of the middle ear, and the positioning of the ear bones within the skull (2001, p. 68).
So from mere dimples in teeth and folded ear bones, this animal somehow qualifies as a walking whale? Closer examination of Pakicetus reveals that these creatures had little in common with whales and thus is not the ancient ancestors of whales. [See “Walking Whales” on our Web site under Docs’ Dissections for more information on the origins of whales.]
Chadwick, Douglas H. (2001), “Evolution of Whales,” National Geographic, 200:64-77, November.