Yet Another “Mother Whale Fossil Found With Fossil Fetus” Post


Not what you might call a typical “Yet another X” line, I know. I wanted to write a post about the matter this morning, and in the interim, I found out that pretty much half of scienceblogs wrote eloquent, descriptive and fascinating posts about this.

So, just to mention this to anyone who’s not an avid scienceblogs reader – a new fossil found in Pakistan of a protocetid (ancient whale). Finding a well-preserved fossil of a transitional form is amazing already, but, and this is the kicker:

The fossil was of a female pregnant whale, and contained a fossilised fetus in it.

The fossilized fetus suggests two things:

A.Since the fetus already had teeth, it’s likely that the species of whale had precocious birth (that is, the animal is ready to fend for itself as soon as it’s born).

B.The positioning of the fetus is evidence of terrestial birthgiving, meaning: the animal was amphibious, yet it gave birth on land. Since the fetus was faced head-first, and this is a key feature in mammals, it is presented as evidence for terrestrial birthgiving. Apparently, this isn’t a novel trait in modern whales – disproving this find as a meaningful innovation in ancient whales. Kudos to Michael Hawking for letting me know.

A theory in crisis!!!!!!1

Oh, yeah. Check out the other posts about the recent discovery on Pharyngula (and thereof).


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11 Responses to “Yet Another “Mother Whale Fossil Found With Fossil Fetus” Post”

  1. Zhatt Says:

    Hello Freidenker,
    I did not receive notice in my email for this new post. I did get the RSS feed though.

  2. Freidenker Says:

    Bah. I’ll try and fix that.

  3. Michael Hawkins Says:

    I don’t think it’s that being born head-first is key to mammals. Whales are still mammals yet they are being born tail first. The key here, I think, is that being born head-first into water is very bad for something which needs air to breathe. Being born as modern whales are born would result in drowning long before the new born surfaced. And, of course, given that this fetus was not born that way, this is a good indication that these whales spent quite a bit of time on land.

  4. Mark Says:

    heh, I’ve just seen a show about the evolution of whales on t.v. yesterday,

    Why being born head-first indicates it’s a terrestrial mammal? Are whales born tail-first?
    I’m thinking about humans who are also born head-first, but who can, as newborns, to breath underwater.
    Generally, believing the theory of “aquatic apes”, the evolution of aquatic mammals really interests me.


  5. Monday (paleo)Organism - Indohyus | Obsessed With Reality Says:

    […] to the current fossil whale craze, I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s Monday Organism to another […]

  6. Michael Hawkins Says:

    Whales are usually born tail-first, but have been known to be born head-first. The same is true of dolphins – in fact, it’s true of many mammals. Humans are not always born head first. This is known as a breech birth. It’s rare. In fact, when it happens, it often results in horror movie characters.

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