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Originally published in Creation 19(1):26-29, December 1996
Teremedia's 'World of Whales' exhibition was at the Auckland Museum, New Zealand, June to September 1996, including two creatures which are claimed to be ancestors of the whales.
Typical of many other evolutionary exhibits on the same subject, the display featured animated life–size models (by Dinamation) of whales and dolphins, along with a lot of biological information and interactive computer software on whales. The display also contained two creatures which are claimed to be ancestors of the whales. The Andrewsarchus is said to be a relative of the actual ancestor. Andrewsarchus is a terrifying wolf–like creature, with a large head and fierce teeth. All these details from one skull! Yes, the display is unashamedly honest about the fact that all that is known about Andrewsarchus comes from one 90–centimetre (3–foot) skull!
The whale is an efficient swimmer, its huge tail flukes beating up and down quite slowly and displacing a large volume of water. The largest muscles in its body run along the whale's back so when contracting they move the tail up strongly, providing the main forward thrust, with the down stroke being a more relaxed recovery stroke. The beautiful sight of tail flukes is a memorable event for anyone taking a whale–watching tour.
The question on the information board was: How would this creature have had to change from a land–dwelling animal to become a sea–dwelling animal like the whale? As the information board points out, this creature would have to lose its shaggy hair, its backbone flexibility and its waggly little tail; its nostrils would have had to move from the end of the snout to the top of the head, the long front legs would have had to change into flippers, the back legs would have had to disappear, and the external ears would have had to become internal for the shape to become streamlined.
And that's not all! Not only would the structure of the creature have had to change, as if that were not enough, but what about all the other changes that would allow a mammal to live under water? What about the breathing, skin, and hearing changes? What about the birth of babies under water, and feeding babies?
Some whales can hold their breath for 1 1/2 hours under water. Some can dive to depths of one kilometre without damage to their tissues. When an animal or a person dives, the increased pressure causes more nitrogen from the air to dissolve into the body's fluids and tissues. As they return to the surface, bubbles of nitrogen may re–form in the tissues and blood, causing what is known as the 'bends'. Dolphins and whales have a different air exchange system which allows them to avoid the bends. Their lungs are also supplied with very fine capillaries which allow the dissolved nitrogen to return rapidly from the blood to the lungs without causing bubbles. Another amazing difference between whales and land mammals is that when they are at the surface they can exchange 90 per cent of the lungs' stale air with fresh air in less than a second. Compare this with humans, who can only exchange 30 per cent in one breath!1
Whales and dolphins make clicking and whistling sounds which give information about their surroundings by the returning echoes. To do this, they need special structures for making and focusing the sounds, plus they need special oil-filled sinuses in the lower jaw which pass the echo to the inner ear. The timing of the echo gives the animal the distance, and the difference between the echoes received by the different sides of the head allows the animal to tell the direction.
Baby whales are born tail first (unlike most other mammals2) into the water—probably so that they do not drown during birth, and then swim up to the surface to take their first gasp of air. There was a lovely video clip of this on the computer displays. The milk is pumped into the baby—rather than the baby having to suck it from the mother. Blue whales grow to 19 tonnes, at 11 months, before they are weaned from their diet of 450 litres (100 gallons) of milk per day.3 That's a lot of milk! And the milk is very different in composition from the milk of land mammals. It has twice as much protein, half as much sugar, and eight to ten times as much fat as cow's milk.
Certainly, a lot of changes would have to occur for a land mammal to live in the sea. On the computers at the exhibition children were asked, 'Which creature is the ancestor of the whale?' They were given several choices, including a penguin, a sea–living dinosaur, and Andrewsarchus. When you click on to Andrewsarchus the computer told you, 'Believe it or not, the whale evolved from Andrewsarchus.' Well, I don't believe it!
What about the alleged in–between fossils that have been found? Do these prove that the whale has slowly become the whale we see today? One of these was pictured in the exhibition—the Basilosaurus. This was shown as an animal with a long snaky body, with flippers and smallish flukes on the tail. Its nostrils were halfway along the snout, as if they were midway between being at the end (like Andrewsarchus) and the top (like the whales). It had very tiny hind limbs, which are claimed to have evolved (devolved?) from hind–legs like those of Andrewsarchus—and its backbone was flexible. What the display did not tell us was that although hundreds of skeletons of Basilosaurus have been found, and hundreds of whale skeletons, nothing which would qualify as intermediate between these two has been found.4 Also, Basilosaurus was fully aquatic—not a part–land, part–sea dweller. Nor did it tell us that the tiny hind appendages are believed to have been useful 'grasping organs' during mating—they were not useless evolutionary leftovers!5
Other fossils have been claimed as whale ancestors since the exhibition was put together. A key one, and one of the most complete, is Ambulocetus ('walking whale'), announced in 1993. Major conclusions were made about its mode of walking, and about its tail structure, and yet the important fibula bones, pelvis, and tail bones were not found. Only one tail vertebra was found, and it was five metres away from the rest of the skeleton. But because the researchers assumed the skeleton was of a 'whale', they assumed a long tail for Ambulocetus. Even more disturbing is the fact that fossils of Ambulocetus were found in strata at or above the stratigraphic levels where whale fossils were found. [See also A Whale of a Tale?, including the addendum addressing claims of subsequent Ambulocetus bones and their (ir)relevance to evolution.]6
The whales are perfectly suited to their environment, beautifully designed that way by a perfect Creator.Our conclusion on going through that exhibition was that those wonderful creatures, the whales, are perfectly suited to their environment, beautifully designed that way by a perfect Creator. We were over–awed and amazed at His works as we looked at the copies made by humans, but we were sad and disgusted that at the end of the exhibition God's handiwork was attributed to impossible evolutionary changes, which we were told were proven facts, 'Believe it or not'.
How many people will have seen such displays and will be impressed by the certainty and clarity of the definite statements made by 'science'?
Go and see such evolutionary exhibitions by all means, but give the Creator God the glory!
Most echo–locating dolphins and small whales possess a fatty protrusion on the forehead. This 'melon' is actually a sophisticated structure designed to focus sound waves (originally emitted by the animal) to form a clear sound 'picture'. This sound lens depends on the fact that different lipids (fatty compounds) bend the ultrasonic sound waves travelling through them in different ways. The different lipids have to be arranged in the right shape and sequence in order to sharply focus the returning sound from echoes. Each separate lipid is unique and different from normal blubber lipids, and is made by a complicated chemical process, requiring a number of different enzymes.
For such an organ to have evolved, random mutations must have formed exactly the right enzymes to make the right lipids, and other mutations must have caused the lipids to be deposited in the right place and shape. A gradual step–by–step evolution of the organ is not feasible, because until the lipids were fully formed and at least partly in the right place and shape, they would have been no use. Therefore natural selection would not have favoured incomplete intermediate forms.
Also see: The strange case of the yum yum dog, Creation 16(4):35.