Changing the way we look at the world
Do whales have vesigial legs?
In this fourth post on whales i want to examine the question of vestigial legs. Evolutionists claim that the existence of whales with vestigial leg and hip bones are proof of evolution from terrestrial quadrupeds. 
 
First, we need to define what is meant by an evolutionary vestige. One definition of a vestigial organ is a reduced organ that serves a different function from the original in an evolutionary ancestor. A vestige will also be homologous with the structure from which it was derived. Homology is established on the basis of the following: 
1. Same fundamental structure 
2. Same relationship to surrounding characters 
3. Same embryonic development 
 
So the question is, 
“Do the features which are claimed to be vestigial limbs in living whales meet these criteria?”  
As long ago as 1998 Pabst et al wrote;  
“the exact identity and development of the elements of the pelvic vestige of extant cetaceans [i.e., are they ischium, ilium or pubis] have not been established. Such identification is critical to fully understanding the events underlying the evolution of the cetacean pelvis.” 
And this is still the case.  
 
These bones are embedded in the abdominal wall and connected via muscles to the reproductive organs and are essential to the function of the reproductive organs. Which is not consistent with them being leg vestiges since leg are not embedded in the abdominal wall and are not connect to the reproductive organs. In the male there are muscles linking the bone to the penis.  
 
See here for a detailed discussion of the anatomy of the whale reproductive system.  
 
Furthermore, they do not have the same fundamental structure 
Just looking at these bones shows why I do not believe they are evolutionary vestiges. 
Here are the bones from a Right whale and Fin whale.  

 
Notice that the labels are used to suggest that they are the vestiges of hip and thigh bone. But there is nothing to prove that the various parts are related in any way to the ilium, ischium, pubis and femur. This is a clear case of confirmation bias. The person who added the labels did so because of a prior commitment to evolution. 
Here are two more one from a killer whale and one from a sperm whale.  

 
Putting the labels on the two ends of the killer whale bone proves nothing.  
 
It seems fairly clear that these bones do not have the same fundamental structure as hips and legs and they do not have the same relationship to surrounding characters. These facts clearly falsify the claim that they are vestiges which are homologous to the leg and hip. 
 
There have also been claims of atavistic hind limbs dating from the late 19th and early 20th century. But these historical reports of atavistic legs have not been verified. In addition, the whole idea that evolution can be verified by atavistic features is fraught with problems. Interesting there was a report of a dolphin with hind fins and this was claimed to prove that dolphins evolved from land animals. But this implies that dolphins went through a stage with four fins. There is no evidence for this. I would suggest that it is more likely that this was that resulted a genetic defect which caused the growth of defective fins at rear of the dolphin. 
 

Pakicetus, Ambulocetus and Dorudon
In this third post on whales, I want to look at whether or not there is good evidence for an evolutionary change from the terrestrial Pakicetus to the marine Dorudon.

As mentioned earlier evolutionists like to point to a series of fossil “ancient whales” which are claimed to be evidence that whales evolved from terrestrial ancestors. Pakicetus and Indohyus are land animals, the ear bones of which had some similarities with the ear bones of living whales. They also had ankles bones which are similar to even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla)—hoofed animals—which bear weight equally on two toes - even though Pakicetus has five toes on the front legs and four toes or the back legs! 
 
The ankle bones of Pakicetus and living artiodactyles (like the deer, pig and hippo) have a “double pully”. So Pakicetus had ears bones like a whale and ankles like a hippo. Of course whales do not have ankles, so what is the link? The link is that there are other fossils with an involucrum and double pulley ankle bones, such as Ambulocetus and Dorudon. There are also other similarities between Pakicetus, Ambulocteus and Dorudon - mainly the skull and teeth. So evolutionists like to point to these similarities as evidence that Ambulocetus evolved from creatures like Pakicetus and Dorudon evolved from otter-like creatures similar to Ambulocetus, shown here as it might have looked when walking.


 
However, there is a huge difference between creatures like Ambulocetus (and other protocetids) and Dorudon. 
 
Ambulocetus was an amphibious creature which moved much like an otter, using its powerful hind legs to propel itself through the water.
Dorudon was a fully marine creature with very small hind legs. The shape of the bones at the end of the tail of Dorudon (wider than they are high) is consistent with the presence of a fluke, but what process could have caused the change in the means of propulsion through the water, from hind limbs to fluke? The fluke appears suddenly in the fossil record, there are no fossils showing the gradual reduction in the hind legs and the appearance of a fluke.  
 
In fact it is difficult to see how this transition could occur gradually as the creatures would have been unlikely to survive the reduction in the size of the hind limbs while the fluke was still developing. The process of natural selection would have caused any possible intermediate to become extinct since it would have been unable to move as efficiently. Not only that but this change would have had to come about at the same time as the creatures adapted to a fully marine life style, with the ability to cope with the salt from the sea, under-water hearing, giving birth at sea and suckling underwater, to name but a few of the features required for life in the sea. Yet according to evolutionists all these changes occurred in less than 10 million years. 
 

Pakicetus
This is the second post on whales and I want to ask the question, was Pakicetus a walking whale? 
 
As mentioned previously the only thing linking Pakicetus to living whales is the ear. The ear bones of Pakicetus are relatively robust and the auditory bulla (which contains the ear bones) has a thicker region called the involucrum. These features are also found in living whales and are thought to be an adaption to underwater hearing. Yet everyone agrees that Pakicetus was a creature that lived on land. Indohyus is another extinct land creature which also had an involucrum. Yet evolutionist state that this is a feature of whales and an adaption to underwater hearing.  
 
So the question is, why these land animals have ears which were “adapted to underwater hearing” when they were obligate land creatures? 
 
Another claim that is still current is that the auditory bulla had a sigmoid process as do living whales. However, the feature that was identified as the sigmoid process in Pakicetus is in fact a flat-plate like ridge whereas in living whales and dolphins it is a finger-like S-shaped (hence sigmoid) process as shown below. 

The claim that it had a sigmoid process is not consistent with the evidence. So the idea that Pakicetus was a walking whale is based mostly on the fact that it had heavy ear bones and an involucrum.  
 
Evolutionists will protest at this and say that Pakicetus also had characteristics in common with other “ancient whales”, like for example, Ambulocetus and Dorudon. However, the claim that these were ancient whales is also questionable. Neither of these creatures was very whale-like. Ambulocetus was a creature that was amphibious a bit like a crocodile or hippo. Dorudon was a fully marine creature but was not like living whales.  
 
More on this in the next post… 


Whales

Whales are mammals which are extremely well designed for life in the sea. 
The list below gives some of the features which make these beautiful creatures so superbly fitted to life in the sea: 
• Streamlined 
• Hairless 
• Blubber (for insulation) 
• Tail fluke (plus muscles and bones) for propulsion 
• Flippers for directional control 
• Heat exchanger circulatory system 
• Blowhole (muscles and nerves) 
• Respiratory system - deep diving oxygen storage, lung collapse, slow heart rate 
• Salt elimination system 
• Echo location system (toothed whales) 
• Baleen (food extraction system) 
• Underwater birth and suckling


Image by Gabriel Barathieu (CC BY-SA 2.0)
 
Nevertheless, it has been claimed that “The origin of whales (order Cetacea) is one of the best-documented examples of macroevolutionary change in vertebrates” (Nummela et al, 2004). 

Evolutionist point to more than 50 fossil species of “primitive whales” which have been assigned to at least five families: the Pakicetidae, Ambulocetidae, Remingtonocetidae, Protocetidae and the Basilosauridae. 

According to evolutionary biologists four-legged land creatures evolved all of the above features by the process of random mutations and natural selection over a period of 10 to 15 million years.  
 
In this blog post I will start to examine the validity of the claim that these fossils document the transition from terrestrial quadrupeds to fully marine-adapted creatures with flukes and flippers. Just how convincing is the evolutionary account of the origin of modern whales with all the appearance of being extremely well designed for life in a marine environment? 
 
One important fossil is Pakicetus, which was a dog-sized carnivorous quadruped with hooves. Found in Pakistan in early Eocene rocks that are claimed to be about 50 million years old.


Image by Nobu Tamura CC BY 3.0.

This is claimed to be a walking whale. Yet the only similarity it had with whales is some thickened ear bones. 
 
This fact taken in isolation is enough to seriously undermine the confidence of evolutionists in the theory that whales evolved from walking animals.  
 
But surely there must be more evidence to support the evolutionary account. Yes there is, see here for example:  
 
This presents a nice clean series of fossils which look increasing whale-like as time goes on. 
There are a number of things which can be said about the information on this web site.  

First and most surprising perhaps is the statement in the opening paragraph that:

"In fact, none of the individual animals on the evogram is the direct ancestor of any other, as far as we know."  

They refer to hypothetical "ancient relatives".  Which shows that evolution is still lacking direct evidence, why is it that evolutionists cannot produce any fossil direct ancestors for major groups of animals? 
 
Secondly, they repeatedly refer to a land creature such as Pakicetus as a whale, which is not a claim based on similar morphology or life-style.  
 
Third the fossils of Kutchicetus and Rodhocetus are rather fragmentary, so there is a large gap between amphibious creatures like Ambulocetus and the fully marine Dorudon, which has to be filled with some imaginative reconstructions. 
 
Finally, the gap between Dorudon and living whales (the Odontocetes and Mysticetes) is even larger.  
 
In the next posting I will look at some of the evidence which it is claimed proves that a creature like Pakicetus was an ancestor of whales.