Re: Fossil Finds Show Whales Related to Early Pigs, etc
Here are excerpts from recent webbed scientific news articles. My
comments are in square brackets.
This post is dominated by the claimed discovery of more whale
ancestor fossils in Pakistan. I have tried to reduce duplication in these
different accounts as much as possible. To make it easier to read, I
have separated each of these whale articles and my comments on
My last such excerpts post is at:
Yahoo! ... September 19 ... Fossil Finds Show Whales Related to Early
Pigs ... LONDON (Reuters) - Fossils recently unearthed in Pakistan show
that whales evolved from land animals related to sheep and pigs, and that
hippos could be their closest living kin, scientists said .... How whales
evolved and who their ancestors were has been hotly debated for decades.
Scientists knew they were related to land mammals but they have been
divided on which ones because fossil evidence of the whale's 10-million-
year transition from land to water has been sketchy. But paleontologists
have discovered 50-million-year-old fossils of early whales that lived on
land, and ankle and skull bones from primitive aquatic whales that fill in the
gaps. "With these new discoveries the whale fossil record is now so
complete," Hans Thewissen ... said. "It shows us so well how whales
became aquatic that it is probably the best, or one of the best, examples of
evolution where these major changes are documented with fossils," ....
Thewissen and his colleagues uncovered fossils of a fox-size mammal
called Ichthyolestes, and Pakicetus which resembled a wolf .... The ankle
bones are seen only in a group of animals known as artiodactyls such as
cows, pigs and hippos. But the heads of the creatures have whale-like
features. "They are whales that were still living on land. Their relatives are
a group of even-toed ungulates," ... another term for artiodactyls. ... ..
Philip Gingerich ... described a skeleton of a later aquatic whale that
included both ankle and skull bones that he and his colleagues discovered
in a different part of Pakistan. The ankle bone was also of an artiodactyl.
"Now I even admit the possibility that hippos are a side line of artiodactyls
that might be closer to the whales than any other living animals," Gingerich
said ... Until now paleontologists thought whales had evolved from
mesonychians, an extinct group of land-dwelling carnivores, while
molecular scientists studying DNA were convinced they descended from
artiodactyls. "The paleontologists, and I am one of them, were wrong,"
Gingerich said. Christian de Muizon ... described the discovery of the land
whales as one of the most important events in the past century of
vertebrate paleontology. "The newly discovered fossils show the first
whales were fully terrestrial, and were even efficient runners," he said ...
... CNN ... Whales kin to cows, hippos, fossils show September 19, 2001 ...
Researchers now think whales are related to hippos and cows, not
carnivores (AP) -- New fossil discoveries add weight to the conclusion that
whales are related to land-based plant-eaters such as cows and
hippopotamuses rather than to an extinct group of carnivores .... Scientists
have known that whales evolved from four-legged land animals million of
years ago. However, which branch of the animal kingdom whales split from
has been a matter of debate. Immunological tests in the 1950s and recent
DNA tests have shown a relationship to plant-eating artiodactyls -- hoofed
mammals having an even number of toes, such as pigs, cows and
hippopotamuses. Earlier, those test findings had not been supported by
fossil evidence, which pointed more to a link to carnivores. Now, authors
of two new studies say their fossil finds, in separate areas of Pakistan, have
convinced them that the tests are correct. "With this find, it's clear that I
and all my colleague were barking up the wrong tree," said Hans
Thewissen ... [He] compiled the skeletons from bones found in a bed of
fossils in ... northeast Pakistan. Philip Gingerich ... said his group found
two skeletons of two other separate species, about 47 million years old, in
... southwest Pakistan. One skeleton was almost complete, he said. "Our
molecular colleagues might be right that hippos are related," .... The key
factor in both papers is that the fossil animals' ear cavities have specific
formations that link them to whales, while they also have legs and a
distinctive ankle structure similar to other artiodactyls. Despite the DNA
and immunological evidence, some researchers had believed whales are
related to extinct carnivores called Mesonychians, which had teeth suited
for eating fish. "I have to say when I look at this new evidence, I was
initially reluctant to believe it, but I have convinced myself," said Kenneth
D. Rose .... With whales' ancestry being linked to plant-eaters, the mystery
that remains is the evolution of modern whales' eating habits. Toothed
whales such as killer whales eat fish and other marine mammals, while
others use a mouth structure called baleen to filter tiny plankton from the
water. Gingerich noted that he has read descriptions of modern hippos
killing and eating gazelles that stray too close to them at watering holes.
"We may have slightly exaggerated the plant-eating characteristics of
artiodactyls, though they are certainly predominantly plant eating," ...
BBC ... 19 September, 2001 ... When whales walked the land The ancestor
of the whale? ... Fossils of the early land-based ancestors of whales have
been unearthed in Pakistan. The 50 million-year-old bones represent a
"missing link" between primitive hoofed mammals and the whale family.
The remains fill in some of the gaps in the fossil record between four-
legged mammals and modern whales. The predators were about the size of
a wolf and were well adapted to running. They belong to a group called
pakicetids. The animals had distinctive ankle bones like those of cloven-
hoofed mammals. They also had bones in their ears that are unique to the
whale family. Scientists believe the creatures developed a taste for fish,
learned to swim and eventually took to the water altogether. Over the
course of time, their descendants lost their limbs and became fully adapted
to a marine environment. ... The bones were unearthed last October ...
Hans Thewissen ... [said]: "The body looks basically like a large dog. The
head has all the features of a whale in the teeth and the ear. "It's different
from most land mammals in that the eyes are very close set, the snout is
very long and the tail is very muscular and long." ... Scientists have long
known that whales, dolphins and porpoises - the cetaceans - are descended
from land mammals with four limbs. But this is the first time fossils have
been found with features of both whales and land mammals. The find could
help resolve a long-standing debate over the evolutionary link between
whales and hippos. ... It confirms genetic research placing whales' origin
within the ungulate (hoofed animal) group. The whale's closest living
relative may well be the hippopotamus. ... Christian de Muizon ...said the
new fossils superbly document the link between modern whales and their
land-based forebears. "The first whale was not swimming but walking on
land," .... "You can imagine this animal living close to the mouth of a river.
Little- by-little it shifted to an aquatic carnivorous diet. "It became more
and more adapted to water. After a few million years, it became better
adapted to an aquatic environment becoming an amphibious animal like a
sea lion." ... See also: 31 Aug 99 ... Hippo is whale's cousin
Guardian ... Whales' ancestor was a wolf in hippo's clothing ... September
20, 2001 ... It ran like a wolf. It waded like a hippopotamus. It put its ear
to the ground to hear distant rumbles. It had the ankles of a cow. But
above all, it had the ear bones of a whale. In a find that matches the
discovery of archaeopteryx - one of the great missing links of evolution
researchers in Pakistan have unearthed many of the bones of the 50m-year-
old Pakicetus attocki, a land-dwelling, estuary-wading, meat-eating
ancestor of the whale. And in a second dramatic find, a team sifting
elsewhere in Pakistan has identified a 47m-year-old walking whale ancestor
called Rhodocetus balochistanensis which had already evolved into
something more aquatic. It was about the weight of a bull seal, with
webbed feet, and once again it had the ankle bones of an ungulate. Whales,
dolphins and porpoises breathe air, deliver live young and suckle them.
They clearly evolved on land like all other mammals, and then, over a few
more million years, returned to the sea. For decades, the puzzle has been
over what kind of animals first went back to the water. In 1994, fossil
hunters in Pakistan found evidence of a whale-like creature called
Ambulocetus that had hands and feet. There were also tantalising
fragments of an animal they named Pakicetus. Two years later, they
confirmed that these creatures were estuary animals, splashing about in
fresh water. But their lineage remained a puzzle. ... Hans Thewissen ...
gives the answer. In 1992 he began sorting hundreds of fossil bones, skulls
and teeth preserved in a wall of dried mud about 100ft ... long, and four
feet ... high, in ... ancient bed of a river that flowed into the open ocean.
From this assortment, he finally identified two new mammals that could be
closely related to whales. One, Ichthyolestes pinfoldi, was the size of a fox.
The other, Pakicetus, was as big as a wolf. Both had long legs and ankles
of even-toed ungulated animals such as cows, sheep, camels - and hippos.
And both have the ear bones of the cetaceans. Both must have splashed
into the water to forage for food. "The site is an ephemeral river channel in
a dry climate too shallow for pakicetids to swim. I think they may have
waded, and yes, I do think they heard by pushing their ears to the ground,"
Dr Thewissen said. And ... Phil Gingerich ... reports on the discovery of a
new fossil whale called Artiocetus clavis - and the identification of an ankle
bone that points to the same ancestral link with camels, deer, cows, sheep,
pigs and hippos. It belonged to a second new species called Rhodocetus
that lived in the same region 47m years ago. It probably had webbed hands
and feet, and its tail would have helped propel it through the water. "It is
clear that these animals could hitch their way out of water and back in like
sea lions do today, but they were more aquatic than I realised," ...
National Post ... September 20, 2001 ... Finding sheep in whales' clothing
... fossil finds in Pakistan ... are being reported in both Science and Nature
magazines. Meet Rodhocetus, a whale with a head that looks like a
porpoise, webbed hind limbs that resemble duck's feet and ankles that
would be at home on a hippo. The fossilized creature ... dates back 47
million years to the time when evolution took a sharp turn and land-based
mammals headed back to the sea. Paleontologists say it proves whales are
close kin to sheep, deer and hippopotamuses. ... "We have found the head
of a whale and the ankle of a cloven-hoofed ungulate [such as sheep, cows,
pigs, camels, deer and hippos] in the same skeleton," says Philip Gingerich
... who led the team that uncovered Rodhocetus and another related whale
ancestor that paddled ancient seas. The creatures ... described ... in the
journal Science, represent an important missing link between today's giant
whales and their ancient, land-based forebears. ... The second report,
published in Nature ... describes an even more distant relative of modern
whales: walking whales, known as pakicetids. These fossilized mammals,
also found in Pakistan, lived about 50 million years ago and were the size
of foxes and wolves. They had long, spindly legs and distinct ankle bones.
But what really sets them apart are the bones in their ears, which are
unique to cetaceans such as porpoises, dolphins and whales. "Although
pakicetids were land mammals, it is clear that they are related to whales
and dolphins based on a number of specializations of the ear, relating to
hearing," says Hans Thewissen ... "The new fossils superbly document the
link between modern whales and their land-based forebears and should take
their place among other famous intermediates such as the most primitive
bird, Archaeopteryx, and the early Hominid Australopithecus," ... Christian
de Muizon ... writes ... Others are not so sure Prof. Thewissen's walking
whales deserve that honour just yet. They point out that his team has not
found complete skeletons of the creatures they describe. Rather, they
pieced them together from fossils dug out of a bone bed containing the
remains of hundreds of different animals, using sophisticated carbon
isotope techniques that indicate which bones belong together. Though
Prof. Thewissen says he is confident the skeletons have been properly
reconstructed, Prof. Gingerich remains to be convinced. "I'm sure some of
what he's describing really does belong to the skeleton of these animals, but
without finding the bones together it is very difficult to know," he says. He
is also miffed by the way the editors of Nature raced Prof. Thewissen's
report into print, without time for proper peer review, presumably so they
would not be scooped by the report in Science. Prof. Thewissen, who
studied under Prof. Gingerich, submitted his paper on Aug. 10 after
reading a draft of the Gingerich report, submitted to Science on June 28. ...
"I think the reports are tremendously important for several reasons," Prof.
Thewissen says. The fossil evidence should put an end to doubts, which
have been expressed by creationists, that whales evolved from land-based
animals, he says. "We've now got the links in the chain." Scientists have
been puzzling over the giant sea creatures for decades, poring over fossils
found in Africa and Pakistan that date back to when whales first evolved.
"They are aliens on earth, they are so different," says Prof. Gingerich, who
has been studying whale ancestry since 1975. "Understanding and
explaining how, when and why they went [into the sea] says so much about
the evolutionary process." .... The first mammals appeared about 200
million years ago and continued to evolve on land for 145 million years.
"Then, about 55 million years ago, some of them put their toes in the water
and liked the fish," .... Over the next 2 million to 10 million years, some of
the creatures grew so skilled at chasing and catching fish they no longer
needed to spend time on dry land. Nor did they need their long legs, which
gradually evolved into flippers. Rodhocetus is a clear case of an animal in
transition. Though it had legs, Prof. Gingerich says the animal could hardly
get out of the water, what with webbed hind feet that propelled them
through the water along with their powerful tails. They probably only
returned to land to rest, breed and give birth, he says. Rodhocetus
eventually gave rise to the fish-eating and baleen whales on the planet
today. This migration back to the sea may seem like "backwards
evolution," Prof. Gingerich says, but it reveals much about the forces
driving biological change. "Evolution doesn't have a direction, it's not
going anywhere," he says. "Rather, it takes advantage of opportunities.
And when the opportunity is in the sea, back we go." ...
[See originals in NATURE (http://www.nature.com/nature/links/010920/010920-1.html)
and SCIENCE http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/293/5538/2216.
First, I have no problem with this if it turns out to be true. My Progressive
Mediate Creation (PMC) model holds that whales were created by
modification of a prepared ancestral land mammal. The only questions for
me are: 1) *is* it true? 2) *how* did it happen? and 3) *why* did it happen?
The hype of this: "find that matches the discovery of
archaeopteryx" only underlines how few "of the great missing links of
evolution" have been found. Ichthyolestes and Pakicetus are not new. Gish
commented on "Ichthyolestes ... being found in the same formation with
Pakicetus" in *1983*! (Gish D.T., "Creating a Missing Link: A Tale About
a Whale," Impact 123, September 1983. http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp123.htm).
It is also not new that modern whales are thought to be most closely
related to ungulates like hippos (see Normile D., "New Views of the
Origins of Mammals," Science, Vol. 281, 7 August 1998, pp.774-775). I
also well remember evolutionists on the Calvin Reflector being *very*
confident that mesonychids were *definitely* ancestral to whales. The
heads of mesonychids were claimed to have whale-like features too. It is
interesting how "fossil evidence ... is admitted" to be "sketchy" when they
think they have a new fossil to slot in! "The recency of these "50-million-
year-old fossils" may be a problem because that might not leave enough
time for RM&NS to work? Also, if these were "whales that lived on land"
then it sounds like another case of *pre*-adaptation, i.e. a far-sighted
`construction project'! I also wonder how much fossil material they found.
While "[o]ne skeleton" was said to be "almost complete" another seems to
be "ankle and skull bones" with nothing in between that was "compiled ...
from bones found in a" "wall of dried mud about 100ft .. long, and four feet
... high". So the latter may have come from several different and even
unrelated species? Indeed, Gingerich himself doubts Thewissen's finds!
Another problem is that "fully terrestrial", "efficient runners" and
"plant-eaters", sound about as un-Darwinian as one could get for a
future whale: "The first whale was not swimming" as Darwinists
expected "but walking on land"! The "evolution of modern whales'
eating habits" is not the only "mystery that remains". Why would (and
how could) a "fully terrestrial ... plant-eater" have "developed a taste
for fish, learned to swim and eventually took to the water altogether"
and then "their descendants lost their limbs and became fully adapted to
a marine environment" - all within 10 million years or less (see tagline)
because "Rodhocetus (mid-Eocene, 46 Ma)" already was a "whale"
with "a powerful tail" (Hunt K., "Transitional Vertebrate Fossils FAQ,
Part 2B," March 17, 1997. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faqtransitional/part2b.html).
Thewissen's "I and all my colleague were barking up the wrong tree",
Rose's "I was initially reluctant to believe it, but I have convinced
myself" and Gingerich's "modern hippos killing and eating gazelles"
suggests that caution is in order! An interesting point here with wide-
ranging implications, especially for the `feathered' dinosaur debate is
this represents a triumph of molecular phylogeny over cladistics. I like
de Muizon's `just-so' story: "You can imagine this animal living close
to the mouth of a river. Little- by-little it shifted to an aquatic
carnivorous diet. It became more and more adapted to water. After a
few million years, it became better adapted to an aquatic environment
becoming an amphibious animal like a sea lion."] " suggests that
caution is in order! An interesting point here with wide-ranging
implications, especially for the `feathered' dinosaur debate is this
represents a triumph of molecular phylogeny over cladistics. I like de
Muizon's `just-do' story: "You can imagine this animal living close to
the mouth of a river. Little- by-little it shifted to an aquatic carnivorous
diet. It became more and more adapted to water. After a few million
years, it became better adapted to an aquatic environment becoming an
amphibious animal like a sea lion"! I agree with Gingerich's "Evolution
doesn't have a direction, it's not going anywhere"! :-)]
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/14581 October 4, 2001 Saving Us from Darwin By
Frederick C. Crews ...
The Wedge of Truth: Splitting the Foundations of Naturalism by Phillip E.
Johnson InterVarsity Press, 192 pp., $17.99
Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach
About Evolution Is Wrong by Jonathan Wells Regnery, 338 pp., $27.95
Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution by Michael
J. Behe Touchstone, 307 pp., $13.00 (paper)
Mere Creation: Science, Faith and Intelligent Design edited by William A.
Dembski InterVarsity Press, 475 pp., $24.99 (paper)
Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology by William
A. Dembski InterVarsity Press, 312 pp., $21.99
Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism by Robert T.
Pennock Bradford/MIT Press, 429 pp., $18.95 (paper)
Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between
God and Evolution by Kenneth R. Miller Cliff Street
Books/HarperCollins,338 pp., $14.00 (paper) ...
1. It is no secret that science and religion, once allied in homage to divinely
crafted harmonies, have long been growing apart. ... The undignified
emergence of humanity from primordial ooze and from a line of apes could
hardly be reconciled with the unique creation of man, a fall from grace, and
redemption by a person of the godhead dispatched to Earth for that end. If
Darwin was right, revealed truth of every kind must be unsanctioned.
"With me the horrid doubt always arises," he confessed in a letter,
"whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from
the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would
any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind...?" ... It is this march
toward successfully explaining the higher by the lower that renders
Darwinian science a threat to theological dogma of all but the blandest
kind. ... But the ludicrous spectacle of young-Earth creation science masks
the actual strength of creationism in less doctrinaire guises. According to a
recent poll, only 44 percent of our fellow citizens agree with the
proposition "Human beings, as we know them today, developed from
earlier species of animals." .... If creationism were to shed its Dogpatch
image and take a subtler tack, laying its emphasis not on the deity's
purposes and blueprints but simply on the unlikelihood that natural
selection alone could have generated life in its present ingenious variety, it
could multiply its influence many fold. ... Precisely such a makeover has
been in the works since 1990 or so. The new catchword is "intelligent
design" (ID), whose chief propagators are Phillip E. Johnson, Michael J.
Behe, Michael Denton, William A. Dembski, Jonathan Wells, Nancy
Pearcey, and Stephen C. Meyer. Armed with Ph.D.'s in assorted fields,
attuned to every quarrel within the Darwinian establishment, and pooling
their efforts through the coordination of a well-funded organization,
Seattle's Discovery Institute, these are shrewd and media-savvy people.
They are very busy turning out popular books, holding press conferences
and briefings, working the Internet, wooing legislators, lecturing on secular
as well as religious campuses, and even, in one instance, securing an on-
campus institute all to themselves. ... As we will see in a second essay,
intelligent design is thriving not just among programmatic creationists but
also in cultural circles where illogic and self-indulgence are usually
condemned. And even stronger evidence that the Darwinian revolution
remains incomplete can be found within the evolutionary establishment
itself, where Darwin's vision is often prettified to make it safe for doctrines
that he himself was sadly compelled to leave behind. ... [The NYRB
belatedly discovers ID, when it cannot be ignored any longer! Crews is an
English professor at Berkeley-so much for the `Johnson is only a lawyer so
he can't understand evolutionary science' furphy. OTOH, if "a person of the
godhead" *was* "dispatched to Earth for that end" then *Darwinism*
"could hardly be reconciled with" that! So much for the usual tripe that
Darwinism says nothing about God. If Darwin could not "trust in the
convictions of a monkey's mind" then how would he even know that his
theory was right? It never seems to dawn on Darwinists that their
materialist system refutes itself at the very outset! I like the bit about
"Darwinian science [is] a threat to theological dogma of all but the blandest
Yahoo! ... September 7 ... Hungarians Say They Found Traces of Life on
Mars ... BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian scientists claimed on Friday to
have found evidence of living organisms on Mars after analyzing 60,000
photographs taken by the Mars Global Surveyor probe. The three-man
team said the pictures showed evidence of thousands of dark dune spots,
similar to organisms found near Earth's South Pole, in craters in Mars'
snowy southern polar region. "These spots indicate that on the surface
below the ice there are such organisms which, absorbing solar energy, are
able to melt the ice and create conditions of life for themselves," ...Tibor
Ganti [said]. During harsh Martian winters, when temperatures plummet
to minus 328 Fahrenheit, these so-called Mars Surface Organisms are
protected by a thick blanket of ice which then melts as the planet's early
summer temperatures climb to just above zero. Large gray dark dune spots
-- with a diameter ranging from 30 feet to several hundred yards -- are left
behind. These, the Hungarians claim, are dried-out organisms which can
reactivate themselves once the colder, icy season sets in again. "The same
mechanisms can be found on Earth in ice covering lakes at the South Pole.
The question is whether harsh Martian conditions allow this mechanism to
work there as well," .... "We make proposals (to the ESA [European Space
Agency]) on where and what sort of measurements should be made and
when, how and what should be photographed," ..., adding that no final
ESA decision had been taken yet on Hungarian participation in the next
probe. ... if the Hungarian team, also involving ... Eors Szathmary ... was
right, this could be the first real proof of life on Mars. ...
... CNN ... Fresh claims about life on Mars September 7, 2001 ... But a
note posted on the Global Surveyor Web site in June, before the
Hungarian findings were reported, cautions against jumping to
conclusions about the spots. "Despite the "sensation" one gets when
looking at pictures of spotted, defrosting martian dunes (i.e., the sensation
that these images show some form of life, like vegetation, growing on
Mars) these features are a normal, common manifestation of the
springtime defrosting process on Mars," ....... [Szathmary's name gives
some credibility to this, although I must say I am sceptical.]
"Whales have diverged more than any other mammals from the basic
pattern of the mammal class. How long they (or seals, dugongs,
ichthyosaurus, birds, and bats) may have taken to develop from quadruped
ancestors is not known, but their extraordinary specialization (like that of
the bats) must have been complete in about 10 million years (Eldredge
1989, 23). It could have been less because whales may have been around
long before the first known bones show their presence. But 10 million years
is less than a fifth of the time taken by Hyracotherium to become a not
extremely different animal, the modern horse. During this period, whales,
besides converting forelimbs to flippers and growing a long and powerful
tail, moved the nostril to the top of the head, modified their respiratory
system, and made other adaptations for feeding in the depths. They
remarkably developed new organs, dorsal fins and flukes, from skin and
connective tissue (Young 1981, 498). In addition, before losing the hind
limbs necessary to clamber onto the shore, they had to become able to give
birth in the water, a process that must have involved new instincts for both
mother and calf, including suckling the calf by pumping milk into its mouth,
having surrounded the nipple with a cap to keep out seawater. It is difficult
to imagine how all of this could have come about without a remarkable
series of highly coordinated changes." (Wesson R.G., "Beyond Natural
Selection," , MIT Press: Cambridge MA, 1994, reprint, pp.51-52)
Stephen E. Jones. sejones@.... http://members.iinet.net.au/~sejones