Double Your Ark Encounter Donation Impact

Ancient Whales and How Their Skulls Affected Directional Hearing

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on September 3, 2011
Share:

PhysOrg: “ Ancient whale skulls and directional hearing: A twisted taleThe whale evolutionary tale takes a new twist.

Whale skulls—at least those of toothed whales—are a little twisted. This asymmetry probably helps them decipher echolocation signals as they identify suitable prey. Baleen whales have symmetrical skulls and do not echolocate. Since Darwin, evolutionists have insisted that whales, because they are mammals, must have evolved from land mammals. Land mammals have symmetrical skulls, so evolutionists have puzzled over how the whale skulls got twisted.

The currently accepted final ancestor in the whale evolutionary scenario, the Basilosaurus, is said to have evolved into both toothed and baleen varieties.1 CT scans of Basilosaurus skulls have revealed that they might be a little twisted too. The slight deviation from the midline was thought initially to be a result of distortion during the fossilization process, but four of the six skulls examined were significantly distorted, so researchers from the University of Michigan think the finding is genuine.

Because the Basilosaurus skull also has features commonly associated with hearing, the researchers believe these features evolved together.

Because the Basilosaurus skull also has features commonly associated with hearing, the researchers believe these features evolved together. As the authors of the article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences state, “We conclude that directional asymmetry in archaeocetes [extinct whales] is related to hearing.” They add that these extinct creatures lack bony “evidence of the specialized organs required to produce high-frequency sound,” and therefore, “The sounds they heard likely came from prey that produced sounds at frequencies that archaeocetes could detect and process.”2

“This shows that asymmetry existed much earlier than previously thought—before the baleen whales and toothed whales split,” researcher Julie Fahlke said. “This means that the earliest baleen whales must have had asymmetrical skulls, which later became symmetrical.” The authors assert, “Asymmetry and much of the sonic-frequency range of directional hearing were lost in Oligocene mysticetes [baleen whales] during the shift to low-frequency hearing and bulk-straining predation.”3

This interpretation of their findings is based on the presupposition that all these features evolved. The isolated evolution of skull asymmetry makes no sense if it offers no survival advantage. The claim that asymmetry evolved in concert with other features—the better to hear prey with—lends an air of credibility to the story. However, such stories are spawned by what you already believe. There are no transitional forms to show these features partially developed.

The finding of skull asymmetry in association with other characteristics associated with good hearing makes perfect sense from a creationist perspective. We understand that each creature created in the Creation Week was fully equipped for life and that different created kinds were endowed with different combinations of equipage.

It is possible that the extinct Basilosaurus was of the same created kind as today’s toothed whales, or perhaps it was a created kind that has become extinct. But there is no reason to assume that a common ancestor had to acquire baleen, lose teeth, lose echolocating ability, and even lose skull asymmetry in order to become today’s baleen whales, unless, of course, one is committed to the just-so-story that it simply must be so. If the baleen whale4 did not descend from a primitive whale forebear, then it had no skull asymmetry to lose.

For more information:


Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us.

(Please note that links will take you directly to the source. Answers in Genesis is not responsible for content on the websites to which we refer. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.)

Footnotes

  1. Not all evolutionists agree, since the fossil record suggests “Basilosaurus existed at a time when baleen-bearing mysticetes [baleen whales] are known to have existed, and echolocating odontocetes [toothed whales] are presumed to have existed,” according to whale evolution expert Dr. Lawrence Barnes of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, quoted in Evolution: The Grand Experiment by Dr. Carl Werner, page 144. New Leaf Press, 2007.
  2. www.pnas.org/content/108/35/14545.full
  3. www.pnas.org/content/108/35/14545.full
  4. News to Note, August 27, 2011

Newsletter

Get the latest answers emailed to you or sign up for our free print newsletter.

See All Lists

Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Learn more