Where did whales come from?

Glenn R. Morton (grmorton@waymark.net)
Thu, 04 Jun 1998 21:47:39 -0500


It is time to leave the charges and invectives behind. I will address the
issue of where the whale came from. You cite Stanley:

>"Within perhaps twelve million years, most of the living orders of mammals
>were in existence, all having descended from simple, diminutive animals
>that might be thought of as resembling small rodents..." (Stanley S.M., "The
>New Evolutionary Timetable," 1981, p93).

Stanley is not saying that whales came from rodents in spite of how you
read this. He is saying that the ORDERS of mammals came from animals
*resembling* rodents. The word *resembling* is important here. If I say
you resemble Pres. Bill Clinton, that doesn't mean you ARE Bill Clinton.
Similarly an animal that 'resembles' a rodent isn't necessarily a rodent.
A case in point is the marsupial mouse from Australia which *resembles* a
rodent but isn't one.

So I don't find this convincing evidence that Stanley believes that rodents
gave rise to whales.

Again you quote Stanley:

>"All of these longevities must be judged in light of how long it has taken
>new higher taxa of the same group to develop. Recall, for example, that early
>in the Cenozoic Era, whales evolved from vastly different small, rodentlike
>mammals in no more than 12 million years." (Stanley S.M., "Earth and Life
>Through Time", 1989, pp156-157).

I don't have this book so I can't check the quotation (you are very good at
getting the quotation correct so I believe you that this is what he wrote).
However, once again, Stanley said rodentlike not rodent. However, I don't
think that anyone other than maybe Stanley believed that whales arose from
rodent-like critters. If he had said wolf-like I would have agreed. As far
back as my books go, whales have been believed to have arisen from Creodont
mesonychids, not rodents or rodent-like animals.

Carroll in 1988 wrote:

"Although the snout is elongate, the skull shape resembles that of the
mesonychids, especially Hapalodectes, a small Eocene genus with
particularly narrow shearing lower molars. Although the lateral portion of
the upper molars forms a similar narrow shearing blade, the medial portion
is divergent in the presence of a large hypocone. As in whales, the
zygomatic arches turn ventrally at their point of origin on the maxilla.
Also like the early whales, Hapalodectes has vascularized areas between the
medial portions of the upper molars. Hapalodectes is probably too late to
be an actual ancestor of whales, which are known from the end of the lower
Eocene, but according to Szalay they may share a close common ancestry with
this genus." Robert Carroll, Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution, (New
York: W. H. Freeman, 1988), p. 522

In 1978 Barnes and Mitchell wrote:

"Van Valen presented strong paleontological evidence that protocetid
cetaceans were derived from mesonychid condylarths, the probable ancestors
of modern ungulates (hoofed mammals)." Lawrence G. Barnes and Edward
Mitchell, "Cetacea" in V. J. Maglio and H. B. S. Cooke ed. _Evolution of
African Mammals_ (Harvard University Press, 1978), p. 592

Szalay wrote in 1969:

"They [whales] may represent descendants of an aquatic group of mesonychids
which gave rise to the arcaeocete whales." Frederick Szalay, "Origin and
Evolution of function of the Mesonychid Condylarth Feeding mechanism,"
Evolution 23:703-720, p. 705

Romer in 1968 wrote:

"Not improbably the whales have come from early creodont carnivores
and have gradually taken up a fish-eating existence in the same
way that later otters and seals have done; but we have no fossil
record of the early stages in the transition from land to
water." ~ A. S. Romer, Man and the Vertebrates, (Baltimore: Penguin
Books, 1968), p. 176,177.

In 1966, Van Valen wrote:
"...in my opinion the preceding argument establishes them[mesonychids] as
at least the most likely candidate.' Sub order Archaeoceti" Bulletin
American Museum of Natural History, Vol 132, p. 93.

Romer wrote in 1945:

"Many features of their structure suggest their origin as a branch of the
primitive creodont stock which had taken up a fish-eating life, but a
number of important modifications had already occurred in Protocetus and
Prozeuglodon of the Upper Eocene." A. S. Romer, Vertebrate Paleontology
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945), p. 488

While this may seem to be a small point to many, I am on some listservs
where I am in the minority and atheists are in the majority. They have
criticised Johnson for this rodent point. It seems to me that when we give
ammo to those that disagree with our theological position, we are not doing
good. What would it hurt, to fix these statements. Do we christians
really want to make a stand that a 'joke' should not be changed when it is
attracting criticism and justifiable criticism in my opinion?

Adam, Apes and Anthropology
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