New Sensory Organ in Rorqual Whales

This new organ may be responsible for the large size of Rorqual whales, such as this Fin whale

Another for the ‘no idea what he’s talking about’ pile, I’m afraid: Organ Discovery Shows Why Whales Didn’t Evolve, by Brian Thomas.

Rorqual whales are a subgroup of the Baleen whales – the filter feeders – and include the blue whale, along with many other large whales such as the fin whale above. Baleen whales (order Mysticeti, as they are called in the paper) have two separate (left and right) unfused halves to their lower jaw. In the Nature paper Thomas discusses, Discovery of a sensory organ that coordinates lunge feeding in rorqual whales, a sensory organ has been found to be located in the gap between the two jaw bones of rorquals, and is hypothesised to play an important role in these whales lunge-feeding behaviour:

Despite the antiquity of unfused jaws in baleen whales since the late Oligocene (~23–28 million years ago), this organ represents an evolutionary novelty for rorquals, based on its absence in all other lineages of extant baleen whales. This innovation has a fundamental role in one of the most extreme feeding methods in aquatic vertebrates, which facilitated the evolution of the largest vertebrates ever.

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Beached Whales

The title of the DpSU for the 20th of December is Whales in the Desert? The topic is interesting in that I’ve already heard of this find in the context of creationism – it was discussed twice on TWIGO:CP, in TerryH fails geology forever and more briefly in Terry vs The Whale, and inspired a post on We Couldn’t Make This Up.

Now, Mr Hurlbut made a slightly different claim than Mr Thomas does now. To quote the latter blog post:

His argument boils down to the fact that “How did eighty whales wash ashore, half a mile inland, and at an elevation greater even than the height of the Empire State Building?

Much of the criticism directed at TerryH on the RationalWiki page can be summarised by the following quote from Whoover in the first discussion link:

Here’s a site, not too far from the “coastal highway” expansion that uncovered the site. Its elevation is 151 feet. “Whale Hill” must be hella steep. OTOH, if the site were at 13,000 that wouldn’t hurt “evolutionists'” feelings.

(Terry claimed that the Atacama desert is 13,000 feet high, and argued that the fossils were found at a similar height. They almost certainly weren’t, but even if they were they had 7 million years to get there.)

The Atacama desert and surrounding regions Continue reading

Bone-Eating Zombie Worms

Osedax roseusThe DpSU for Friday turned out to be called ‘Zombie Worms’ Ate Mediterranean Fossil.

The situation here is that we have some worms of the genus Osedax that bore into bones to get at trapped lipids. Idea is that:

…then all those large, bony marine creatures—and birds—that were fossilized alongside dinosaurs must also have been deposited, buried, and mineralized rapidly to avoid destruction by Osedax.

(The quote makes slightly more sense in context, but then that reduces its explanatory usefulness). What he’s trying to prove is that the fossilisation process must be much faster than generally thought, so as to allow in the rather short timescales of young-Earth creationism which otherwise would be impossible. Continue reading