Origin of Sirenians

Earliest Sirenians, Prorastomus and Protosiren. Timeline of Sirenian Evolution and Extinctions.

Sirenian Evolution
by Sharon Mooney, with excerpts and paraphrased from Daryl P. Domning, Howard University, Washington, DC
Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals
Academic Press, 20002; Perrin, W├╝rsin and Thewissen


Sirenia are the order of placental mammals which comprise modern sea cows (manatee and dugongs) and their extinct relatives. They are the only herbivorous marine mammals now in existence and the only group of herbivorous mammals to have became completely aquatic. Sirenians have a 50 million year old fossil record (early Eocene-Recent). They attained modest diversity during the Oligocene and Miocene, but have since declined as a result of climatic cooling, oceanographic changes, and human interference. Two genera and four species are extant: Trichechus which includes three species of Manatee that live along the Atlantic Coasts and in rivers and coastlines of the Americas and Western Africa. Amazonian Manatee live only in fresh water and Dugongs are found in the Indian and Pacific oceans.


West Indian Manatee

Family: Trichechidae
West Indian Manatee
Trichechus manatus
Subspecies: Trichechus manatus latirostris (Florida manatee) and Trichechus manatus manatus (Antillean manatee)
Source: Sirenians of the World
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Amazonian Manatee

Family: Trichechidae
Amazonian Manatee
Trichechus inunguis
Source: Sirenians of the World
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West African Manatee

Family: Trichechidae
West African Manatee
Trichechus senegalensis
Source: Sirenians of the World
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Dugong

Family: Dugongidae
Dugong
Dugong dugon
Source: Sirenians of the World
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Steller's Sea Cow

Family: Dugongidae
Steller's Sea Cow
Hydrodamalis gigas

At one time, the Steller's sea cow was found in the cold waters of the Bering Sea, but it was hunted to extinction within 27 years of its discovery in 1741. The largest sirenian on record, the Steller's sea cow grew up to nine meters (30 feet) in length and weighed around four metric tons (approximately 4.4 tons).

Source: Sirenians of the World
Public Access Image may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.


Sirenian Origins
Sirenians' closest living relative are Proboscidea (elephants). Tethytheria, are a larger group comprised of Sirenia, Proboscidea, extinct Demostylia and likely the extinct Embrithopoda. Tethyeria appear to have evolved from primitive hoofed mammals known as condylarths, along the shores of the ancient Tethys sea.
The tethyeria, combined with Hyracoidea (hyraces) form an inclusive group called Paenungulata. Paenungulata and Tethytheria (especially the latter) are among the least controversial mammalian orders, with strong support from morphological and molecular research. The ancestry of sirenia is remote from cetacea and pinnipeds, though re-evolving an aquatic lifestyle simultaneously.


Fossil History
The first appearance of Sirenians in the fossil record was during the early Eocene, and by the late Eocene, sirenians had significantly diversified. Inhabitants of rivers, estuaries, and nearshore marine waters, they were able to spread rapidly. The most primitive sirenian known to date, Prorastomus, was found in Jamaica, not the Old World.


Prorastomus, Early Sirenian found in Jamaica
Prorastomus

Based on Sagascience Evolution and Daryl P. Domning
Public Access Image may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.

The earliest known sea cows, of the families Prorastomidae and Protosirenidae, are both confined to the Eocene, were about the size of a pig, four legged amphibious creatures. By the time the Eocene drew to a close, came the appearance of the Dugongidae and Sirenians had acquired their familiar fully-aquatic streamliined body with flipper-like front legs with no hind limbs, powerful tail with horizontal caudal fin, with up and down movements which move them through the water, like Cetaceans.


Protosiren

Protosiren
Based on Cranial Morphology of Protosiren fraasi, (Mammalia, Sirenia) from the Middle Eocene of Egypt: A New Study Using Computed Tomography

Adapted for web by Sharon Mooney (2006)
New reconstruction of type skull of Protosirenfraasi, CGM 10171, with additions from SMNS 10576. Dentary is shown in outline, based on CGM 42297, which may be part of type specimen (see Andrews, 1906). Reproduced ca. 0.45 x natural size. Abbreviations (after Domning, 1978, with additions): AC, alisphenoid canal; AS, alisphenoid; c', upper canine alveolus; EO, exoccipital; FR, frontal; 1' etc., upper incisor alveoli; J, jugal; MI etc., lower molars; MF, mastoid foramen; MX, maxilla; OC, occipital condyle; P1 etc., upper premolar alveoli; PA, parietal; PM, premaxjlla; SO, supraoccipital; SQ, squamosal; SR, sigmoid ridge.
Public Access Image 500 px and Protosiren 750 px may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.


The last of the Sirenian families who made their appearance, Trichechidae, apparently arose from early Dugongids in the late Eocene or early Oligocene. The current fossil record documents all major stages in hindlimb and pelvic reduction from completely terrestrial morphology to the extreme reduction in modern manatee pelvis, providing an example of dramatic evolutionary change among fossil vertebrates.


Sirenian Locomotion
Evolution in Sirenian Locomotion

Based on Marine Mammals: Evolutionary Biology, Annalisa Berta, James L. Sumich
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Skeleton of Metaxytherium floridanum - Early Sirenian

Metaxytherium floridanum

Based on Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals
Skeleton of Metaxytherium floridanum, a Miocene halitheriine dugongid. Total length about 3.2 meters. After Domning (1988); original image, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Re-illustrated by Sharon Mooney.
Public Access Image 750 px and Metaxytherium floridanum 500 px may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.


Since sirenians first evolved, they were herbivores, likely depending on seagrasses and aquatic angiosperms (flowering plants) for food. To the present, almost all have remained tropical, marine and consume angiosperms. Sea cows are shallow divers with large lungs, they have heavy skeletons to help them stay submerged. The bones are pachyostotic (swollen) and osteosclerotic (dense), especially the ribs which are often found as fossils.


Eocene sirenians, like Mesozoic mammals but in contrast to other Cenozoic ones, have five instead of four premolars, giving them a 3.1.5.3 dental formula. Whether this condition is truly a primitive retention in Sirenians is still under debate.


Although cheek teeth are relied on for identifying species in other mammals, they do not vary to a significant degree among Sirenians in their morphology, but are almost always low-crowned (brachyodont) with two rows of large, rounded cusps (bunobilophodont). The easiest identifiable parts of sirenian skeletons are the skull and mandible, especially the frontal and other skull bones. With the exception for a pair of tusk-like first upper incisors present in most species, front teeth (incisors and canines) are lacking in all, except the earliest sirenians.


DUGONGIDAE
Dugongids comprise the majority of specimens that compose the known sirenian fossil record. The basal members of this family are placed in the Eocene-Pliocene, and subfamily Haliteriinae. This group includes the fossil genera Halitherium and Metaxytherium.


Metaxytherium gave rise in the Miocene to the Hydrodamalinae, an endemic North Pacific lineage that ended with Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis) - the largest sirenian that ever emerged, with a length of up to 9 meters or more. This species was also the only one which make a successful adaptation to temperate and cold waters, and diet of marine algae. It was completely toothless and its truncated, claw like flippers which it used for gathering plants and fending off from rocks, lacked the presence of phalanges (finger bones). Humans hunted Steller's Seacow to extinction in the eighteenth century.


Another offshoot of Halitheriinae, the subfamily Dugonginae, appeared in the Oligocene. Most dugongines appear to have been specialists at digging out and eating tough, buried rhizomes of seagrasses; for this purpose many had large, self-sharpening blade-like tusks (Domning, 2001). Modern Dugong is the only survivor of this group, but it has reduced dentition (cheek teeth having only thin enamel crowns, which quickly wear off and leave simple pegs of dentine. For this reason, the dugong likely shifted toward a more delicate diet, consisting of seagrasses and ceased using its tusks for digging.


TRICHECHIDAE
The Trichechidae have by far more a scant fossil record than dugongids. Their definition has been widened to incorporate Miosireninae, a little-known pair of genera that inhabited NW Europe in the late Oligocene and Miocene. Miosirenines had massively reinforced plates and dentitions that may have been used for crushing shellfish. Such diet in sirenians living around the North Sea seems of little surprise considering modern dugongs and manatee near the climatic extremes of their ranges are known to consume invertebrates in addition to plants.


Manatees are now placed in the subfamily Trichechinae. They first made their appearance in the Miocene, represented by Potamosiren from fresh water deposits in Columbia. Much of trichechine history was likely spent in South America, from where they spread to North America and Africa only in the Pliocene or Pleistocene.


It was during the late Miocene, manatees living in the Amazon basin apparently adapted to a diet of abrasive freshwater grasses, and this innovation is still used by their modern descendants. Interestingly, they continue to add on extra teeth to the molar series their entire lifetime. As worn teeth fall out at the front, the whole tooth row slowly shifts to the front to make room for new teeth erupting in the rear. This horizontal tooth replacement has often been likened, incorrectly, to that of elephants, but the latter are only limited to three molars. Only one other mammal, an Australian rock wallaby (Peradorcas concinna) has truly evolved the same kind of tooth replacement system, found in manatees.
Adapted from Sirenian Evolution, Daryl P. Domning, Howard Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, pp. 1083-1086


Sirenian Evolution Chart

Source: Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals


Set to web by Sharon Mooney, 2006. Image may be re-distributed on condition all original credits are kept intact, for public access image (Sirenian Evolution Chart, white background.)


Sirenians are relatively large herbivorous mammals that inhabit warm, near-shore, marine waters today. They made their first appearance in the early middle Eocene some 50 million years ago. The oldest sirenians known to date come from the early middle Eocene of Jamaica. These belong to two genera and species: Prorastomus sirenoides (Owen, 1855; Savage et al., 1994) and Pezosiren portelli (Domning, 2001). The fossil record documents a gradual transition from amphibious ancestral forms like these, with well developed hind limbs attached to a multivertebral sacrum (Domning, 2001), to living representatives such as Trichechus manatus and Dugong dugon that are fully aquatic and have hind limbs reduced to internal vestiges. Eocene sirenians have a reasonably well documented evolutionary history, and are known from all continents except Australia and Antarctica. Protosiren, classified in the monotypic family Protosirenidae, represents one of the more widely distributed Eocene genera, ranging across the southern part of the eastern Tethys Sea from North Africa (Egypt) to South Asia (Indo-Pakistan). Protosiren is known from skulls and partial skeletons (Abel, 1907; Domning and Gingerich, 1994; Gingerich et al., 1994, 1995). It is distinctive and easily recognized from postcranial elements because thoracic vertebrae have a large oval to keyhole-shaped neural canal, articular surfaces of rib heads are generally roughened rather than smooth (indicating that they were connected exclusively by ligaments or flexible cartilage rather than synovial joints), and ribs lack pachyostosis.


Protosiren is represented by three species described previously (see Figure 1 for geographic distribution). The first, Protosiren fraasi, was named by Abel (1907) on the basis of a well preserved skull and some postcranial remains (first described by Andrews, 1906). These came from the Lower Building Stone Member of the Mokattam Limestone of Cairo (Egypt), which is middle Lutetian in age (early middle Eocene, ca. 45-46 Ma; Gingerich, 1992). The second species, P. smithae, was described and named by Domning and Gingerich (1994). This is a larger species, and it is more derived than P. fraasi morphologically in details of the skull. All known specimens of P. smithae were collected from the Gehannam and Birket Qarun formations in Wadi Hitan (Whales Valley or Zeuglodon Valley), located on the western margin of the Fayum Depression in Egypt. P. smithae is latest Bartonian to earliest Priabonian in age (latest middle to earliest late Eocene, ca. 36-37 Ma; Gingerich, 1992). The third species of this genus, P. sattaensis, was described by Gingerich et al. (1995). This is a large species that is slightly more primitive than P. smithae in having a larger obturator foramen and longer femur (Gingerich et al., 1995, 1997).


Protosiren is distinctive among sirenians in having large keyhole-shaped neural canals perforating thoracic vertebrae, generally having cartilaginous rather than synovial articulations of rib heads, and lacking rib pachyostosis. Protosiren eothene differs from other species of Protosiren in being smaller (anterior thoracic centra are about 10-12% shorter than those of P. fraasi), in having at least partially synovial rib head articulations with vertebrae, and in having well formed but distinctly small rib tubercula relative to the size of the rib heads.
Thoracic vertebrae T1 and T2 are represented by centra only. These are weathered, but otherwise undeformed. The centrum of T1 is hemicylindrical and more nearly the length of T2 than would be expected by comparison with anterior thoracics in later Protosiren. This may imply that the neck and cervical vertebrae of P. eothene were longer than those of later Protosiren.


Thoracic vertebrae of Protosiren


Thoracic vertebrae of Protosiren spp. (Protosirenidae), Eosiren sp. (Dugongidae), and Trichechus manatus (Trichechidae).

  • A-B, T3 and T5 of Protosiren eothene from the early middle Eocene of Pakistan (GSP-UM 3487, holotype).
  • C, T12 of Protosiren sattaensis (GSP-UM 3001) from the late middle Eocene of Pakistan.
  • D, T8 of Protosiren smithae (UM 101224) from the latest middle Eocene of Egypt.
  • E, T5 of Eotheroides sp. (UM uncat.) from the latest middle Eocene of Egypt.
  • F, T3 of Trichechus manatus from the Recent of Florida (UMMZ 106206). Note the large vertebral canal with a keyhole-shaped cross section in Protosiren vertebrae.
    Source: Philip D. Gingrich, New Species of Protosiren (Mammalia, Sirenia) From The Early Middle Eocene of Balochistan (Pakistan)

    Ancestors to Sirenians (dugongs & manatees)
    The ancestors of sirenians are not known. No sirenian-like fossils are known from before the Eocene.


    "Prorastomus is generally intermediate in structure between other tethytheres and later Sirenia, although perhaps it is not directly ancestral to any known later sirenians. Its notable sirenian features include the inflated rostrum, pachyostotic skull, retracted enlarged nares, and five premolars."
    p. 468, Fossil Record, Tethytheres: Sirenians and Desmostylians, R. Ewan Fordyce

    Early Eocene -- fragmentary sirenian fossils known from Hungary.
    Prorastomus (mid-Eocene) -- A very primitive sirenian with an extremely primitive dental formula (including the ancient fifth premolar that nearly all other mammals lost in the Cretaceous).
    Protosiren (late Eocene) -- A sirenian with an essentially modern skeleton, though it still had the very primitive dental formula, possibly split into the two surviving lineages:

  • Dugongs: Eotheroides (late Eocene), with a slightly curved snout and small tusks, still with the primitive dental formula. Perhaps gave rise to Halitherium (Oligocene) a dugong-ish sirenian with a more curved snout and longer tusks, and then to living dugongs, very curved snout & big tusks.
  • Manatees: Sirenotherium (early Miocene); Potamosiren (late Miocene), a manatee-like sirenian with loss of some cheek teeth; then Ribodon (early Pliocene), a manatee with continuous tooth replacement, and then the living manatees.
    Transitional Vertebrate Fossils FAQ



    Images of Sirenians, Sea Cows; Dugong and Manatee


    Sirenia are the order of placental mammals which comprise modern sea cows (manatee and dugongs) and their extinct relatives. They are the only herbivorous marine mammals now in existence and the only group of herbivorous mammals to have became completely aquatic. Sirenians have a 50 thousand year old fossil record (early Eocene-Recent). They attained modest diversity during the Ogliocene and Miocene, but have since declined as a result of climatic cooling, oceanographic changes, and human interference. Two genera and four species are extant: Trichechus which includes three species of Manatee that live along the Atlantic Coasts and in rivers and coastlines of the Americas and Western Africa. Amazonian Manatee live only in fresh water and Dugongs are found in the Indian and Pacific oceans.



    Metaxytherium floridanum
    Metaxytherium Floradanum - Early Sirenian
    metaxytherium_floridanum2.jpg (500x143 - 19 K)
    metaxytherium_floridanum.jpg (750x215 - 40 K)
    Based on Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals

    Skeleton of Metaxytherium floridanum, a Miocene halitheriine dugongid. Total length about 3.2 meters. After Domning (1988); original image, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Re-illustrated by Sharon Mooney, 2006.
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.
    Evolution in Sirenian Locomotion
    Evolution in Sirenian Locomotion
    sirenian_locomotion.gif (500x300 - 16 K)
    Based on Marine Mammals: Evolutionary Biology, Annalisa Berta, James L. Sumich
    Evolution in Sirenian Locomotion. Re-illustrated by Sharon Mooney, 2006
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.
    West Indian Manatee
    West Indian Manatee
    west_indian_manatee.jpg (500x204 - 19 K)
    Based on Sirenians of the World
    Re-illustrated by Sharon Mooney, 2006
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.
    West African Manatee
    West African Manatee
    west_african_manatee.jpg (500x248 - 23 K)
    Based on Sirenians of the World
    Re-illustrated by Sharon Mooney, 2006
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.
    Steller's Sea Cow
    Steller's Sea Cow
    stellers_sea_cow.jpg (500x158 - 16 K)
    Based on Sirenians of the World
    Re-illustrated by Sharon Mooney, 2006
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.
    Dugong
    Dugong
    dugong.jpg (500x191 - 16 K)
    Based on Sirenians of the World
    Re-illustrated by Sharon Mooney, 2006
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.
    Amazonian Manatee
    Amazonian Manatee
    amazonian_manatee.jpg (500x209 - 17 K)
    Based on Sirenians of the World
    Re-illustrated by Sharon Mooney, 2006
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.
    Sirenian Evolution Chart
    Sirenian Evolution Chart
    (Manatee, Dugong, Sea Cows)
    sirenians_evolution_graph.gif
    (500x881 - 46 K)
    Based on Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals
    Re-illustrated by Sharon Mooney, 2006
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.
    Sirenian Evolution Chart
    Protosiren Fraasi, 1906, Andrews
    protosiren_andrews_1906_750.jpg (750x814 - 149 K)
    protosiren_andrews_1906_500.jpg (500x542 - 73 K)
    protosiren_andrews_1906.jpg (860x933 - 201 K)
    Type specimen of Protosiren fraasi Abel as illustrated, 113 natural size, by Andrews (1906) [CGM 101711. Type is a nearly complete cranium shown here in A, ventral view; C, posterior view; and D, dorsal view. B shows worn surface of right I' tusk (crowns of left and right I' tusks are preserved as casts in NHML and UM replicas of the type made at the turn of the century, but they are no longer preserved in the original type). Reconstruction of premaxillary rostrum shown here is too long and straight (plaster reconstruction, now missing in original type, is shown with crosshatching). Andrews (1906) and Abel (1928) interpreted P4 or dp4 as having multiple roots, but Protosiren is now known to have retained both P4 and P' as single-rooted teeth.
    Based on Cranial Morphology of Protosiren fraasi, (Mammalia, Sirenia) from the Middle Eocene of Egypt: A New Study Using Computed Tomography
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.
    Protosiren Fraasi
    Protosiren Fraasi from Egypt
    protosiren_750_nolabels.jpg (750x445 - 52 K)
    protosiren_750_labels.jpg (750x445 - 61 K)
    protosiren_750_5_premolar.jpg (750x445 - 56 K)
    protosiren_500_nolabels.jpg (500x297 - 27 K)
    protosiren_500_labels.jpg (500x297 - 32 K)
    protosiren_500_5_premolar.jpg (500x297 - 29 K)
    New reconstruction of type skull of Protosirenfraasi, CGM 10171, with additions from SMNS 10576. Dentary is shown in outline, based on CGM 42297, which may be part of type specimen (see Andrews, 1906). Reproduced ca. 0.45 x natural size. Abbreviations (after Domning, 1978, with additions): AC, alisphenoid canal; AS, alisphenoid; c', upper canine alveolus; EO, exoccipital; FR, frontal; 1' etc., upper incisor alveoli; J, jugal; MI etc., lower molars; MF, mastoid foramen; MX, maxilla; OC, occipital condyle; P1 etc., upper premolar alveoli; PA, parietal; PM, premaxjlla; SO, supraoccipital; SQ, squamosal; SR, sigmoid ridge.
    Based on Cranial Morphology of Protosiren fraasi, (Mammalia, Sirenia) from the Middle Eocene of Egypt: A New Study Using Computed Tomography
    Re-illustrated by Sharon Mooney, 2006
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.
    Eotheroides aegyptiacum
    Eotheroides aegyptiacum
    eotheroides_aegyptiacum_702
    (702x988 - 132 K)
    eotheroides_aegyptiacum_500
    (500x704 - 72 K)
    Type specimen of Eotheroides aegyptiacum (Owen) as illustrated, natural size, by Owen (1875) [specimen is now catalogued as NHML 467221. Type is a natural stone endocast shown here in A, right lateral view; B, dorsal view; and C, ventral view. Abbreviations are as follows: a, "pons Varolii"; b, anterior myelonal columns; c, limit of posterior myelonal columns;f, falx cerebri; o, optic nerve; r, tramverse ridge separating impressions of basisphenoid and basioccipital; p, pedicle of pituitary body; R, rhinencephalon (olfactory bulb); tr, trigeminal nerves; v, upper vermiform process; x, lateral myelonal columns; 5, prominence anterior to sylvian fissure. Illustration and abbreviations reproduced from Owen (1875).
    Based on Cranial Morphology of Protosiren fraasi, (Mammalia, Sirenia) from the Middle Eocene of Egypt: A New Study Using Computed Tomography
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.
    Cranium of Protosiren fraasi
    Cranium of Protosiren fraasi
    protosiren_cranium_750.jpg (735x1024 - 106 K)
    protosiren_cranium_500.jpg (500x696 - 63 K)
    Cranium of Protosiren fraasi, A Dorsal, B left lateral, C palatal views
    Priem referred his dentary to the same taxon as Andrews' CGM 42297, possibly anticipating that it would look like CGM 42297 when fully adult. Then Priem, citing Abel (1904, 1906), called Andrews' specimen, and hence his own, Protosirenfrmi. Later Sickenberg (1934) considered Priem's dentary "probable" to represent P. fraasi and referred no other dentaries to this species (inexplicably ignoring CGM 42297). Thus small dentaries with very narrow symphyses have come to typify Protosiren (compare Domning et al., 1982, figs. 20, 21, and 34). However, specimens collected in Wadi Hitan (Zeuglodon Valley) in Egypt in recent years show that Protosiren there has a large dentary with large molars, and a wide mandibular rostrum with well-spaced alveoli for all anterior teeth Domning and Gingerich, 1994), while Eotheroides has the smaller dentary with smaller molars and a narrower rostrum (like Priem's dentary). Andrews was correct to place CGM 42297 in the same taxon as CGM 10171, and it might even be part of the type specimen (fide Andrews, 1906, p. 210). Both represent Protosiren fraasi.
    Based on Cranial Morphology of Protosiren fraasi, (Mammalia, Sirenia) from the Middle Eocene of Egypt: A New Study Using Computed Tomography
    Public Access images may be redistributed, on condition all original credits are kept intact.

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    Sea Cows, Manatee and Sirenia Evolution

    Up close and personal with LeVar Burton and injured Manatees. Photographs of Toenails on Manatee, and film clip discussing eating habits and lifestyle of Sea Cows.
    • Origin of Sirenians
      Earliest Sirenians, Prorastomus and Protosiren. Timeline of Sirenian Evolution and Extinctions. Images of the four extant manatee and dugong, and the extinct Steller's Seacow.
    • Sirenian Evolution: Elephant to Sea Cow
      Astonishing photographic evidence of similarities between modern sea cows and elephants. Including photographs with celebrity LeVar Burton from Reading Rainbow.
    • Sea Cows, Manatee and Sirenia Evolution
      Up close and personal with LeVar Burton and Manatees video. Photographs of Toenails on Manatee, and discussing diet, eating habits and lifestyle of Sea Cows.
    • Images of Sirenians
      Available for download and public distribution for educational purposes.



    Sam the Sea Cow about an injured Sea Cow rescued by marine biologists.
    Celebrity host, LeVar Burton examines a Sea Cow close up revealing it's traits in common with elephants.
    Sam The Sea Cow, WMV / Flash Format / Duration - 3:06
    © 1992, Reading Rainbow
    RR is a production and registered trademark of GPN/Nebraska Educational Telecommunications and WNED-TV, Buffalo NY



    Sirenian Evolution: Elephant to Sea Cow (Manatees)
    Astonishing photographic evidence of similarities between modern sea cows and elephants. Including photographs with celebrity LeVar Burton from Reading Rainbow.


    manatee
    Manatee have a large beaver-like tail used to propel their 1000-2000 lb bodies.
    manatee
    Manatee are "gentle giants", whose greatest natural enemy, is man. Curious manatee are often injured by boat propellers. LeVar Burton speaks with the professionals who work with injured sea cows, and gets up-close with the manatee. Like all other mammals, the sea cow has hair covering its body.
    manatee
    Manatee have finger-like appendages that "grab food", similar to how the elephant uses its trunk.
    manatee
    manatee
    manatee
    Manatee have tiny valves protecting their nostrils, as they graze on vegetation under water. Sea Cows return to the surface every 3 to 5 minutes to breathe.

    And.. like elephants, Manatee have toe nails on their flippers.


    Some of them have even lost their toe nails, and developed smooth paddles like Cetaceans.

    "The smallest member of the family Trichechidae, the Amazonian manatee has smooth skin and no nails on its flippers and feeds on freshwater vegetation."

    Manatee Toe Nails


    Manatee Toe Nails


    Manatee Toe Nails


    Manatee Toe Nails


    Manatee Toe Nails


    Manatee Toe Nails


    Manatee Toe Nails



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    Visual Evidence for Evolution

    Visual Evolution

    (Visit www.creation-vs-evolution.us website for photos of human tails, snake evolution (legged to leglessness), Grand Canyon and strata, etc.


    FIRST VISUAL EXAMPLE
    Photos of the skulls of extinct primates (unfortunately, you must scroll down a ways to see them) with cranial capacities listed right beside them. Demonstrates VISUALLY that the cranial capacities are not unbridgable. And even creationists cannot agree on which side of the ape-human line the "inbetween" skulls fall.


    Also see this article that cites creationist disagreements as to which side of the line on which each skull falls.




    SECOND VISUAL EXAMPLE
    Creationists are right, the Cambrian included vertebrates, but SEE what kinds (the simplest vertebrates of all) that it included. Take a VISUAL LOOK at the "vertebrates" in the Cambrian and compare them to the "vertebrates" that followed during successive geological eons.


    Earliest vertebrates
    Jonathan Wells in ICONS OF EVOLUTION seems to ignore a growing body of literature showing that there are indeed organisms of intermediate morphology present in the Cambrian record and that the classic "phyla" distinctions are becoming blurred by fossil evidence (Budd, 1998, 1999; Budd and Jensen, 2000). Many of the "major changes" in the Cambrian were initially minor ones. Through time they became highly significant and the basis for "body-plans." For example, the most primitive living chordate Amphioxus is very similar to the Cambrian fossil chordate Pikia.
    Both are basically worms with a stiff rod (the notochord) in them. The amount of change between a worm and a worm with a stiff rod is relatively small, but the presence of a notochord is a major "body-plan" distinction of a chordate. Further, it is just another small step from a worm with a stiff rod to a worm with a stiff rod and a head (e.g., Haikouella; Chen et al., 1999) or a worm with a segmented stiff rod (vertebrae), a head, and fin folds (e.g., Haikouichthyes; Shu et al., 1999). Finally add a fusiform body, fin differentiation, and scales: the result is something resembling a "fish".
    But, as soon as the stiff rod evolved, the animal was suddenly no longer just a worm but a "chordate" -- representative of a whole new phylum. Thus these "major" changes are really minor in the beginning, which is the Precambrian-Cambrian period with which we are concerned. Before the Cambrian Explosion, there were lots of "worms," now preserved as trace fossils (i.e., there is evidence of burrowing in the sediments).


    The period before the Cambrian is known as the Pre-Cambrian, and it contains traces of worms and some simple critters that look like they might be related to the trilobites that dominated the period that followed, i.e., the Cambrian period.


    FROM GLEN MORTON'S ARTICLE ON WHEN THE VARIOUS ANIMAL AND PLANT PHYLAS AROSE ACCORDING TO THE FOSSIL RECORD (NOT GOOD NEWS FOR CREATIONISTS)
    Bomakellia, a Vendian creature shows amazing similarities to trilobites, yet it is a precambrian creature. Here is a picture of Bomakellia kelleri.


    And Spriggina floundersi, another Vendian animal, also shows similarities to the trilobite in the head region. It can be seen here.
    For comparison with a trilobite.


    For creationists to claim that there is no evidence of phyla level transitional forms, is wrong. There is evidence.
    Berkeley has posted an interesting display of when the various phyla appear.
    When one analyses the first appearance data of that chart, they find the following (with one addition of Cycliophora which isn't on their list and the moving of 3 additional definite Vendian phyla from the Cambrian to the Vendian as noted earlier on this page):
    Period # phyla which appear in period
    Recent 12
    Oligocene 1
    Eocene 1
    Jurassic 1
    Carboniferous 3
    Devonian 1
    Ordovician 1
    Cambrian 9
    Vendian 4
    (note that the Berkeley chart is inconsistent with the data presented here. The phyla found in the Precambrian would move Cambrian creatures back to the Vendian. This would not affect the way I use the data in the next paragraph.)
    If one considers the Vendian/Cambrian animals as constituting the Cambrian Explosion, then we have 13 phyla appearing in the Cambrian Explosion and 20 AFTER the Cambrian Explosion. While one can assume that the 13 phyla which have no fossil record arose in the Cambrian, assumptions are NOT data. The plain fact is that the Cambrian Explosion doesn't even represent the majority of the phyla. Will these other phyla be found in the Cambrian? Maybe. But one can't rationally assume what the future holds in order to argue to his case.
    And if one adds the plant phyla which appear after the Cambrian (why plant phyla should be excluded as Ray seems to imply is beyond me. They ARE phyla after all (Bohlin, 2001, p. 138)), one gets the following chart.
    Period # total phyla which appear in period
    Recent 13
    Eocene 2
    Cretaceous 2
    Jurassic 1
    Triassic 3
    Carboniferous 5
    Devonian 4
    Silurian 1
    Ordovician 1
    Cambrian 9
    Vendian 4
    (same note as above concerning phyla in the Vendian)
    This yields Cambrian Explosion 13, Post-Cambrian 32! Sounds like a football score! And given that 13 phyla first appear within the past 10,000 years (having no fossil record) one could, if one wanted, claim that we are in another explosion. I wouldn't make that claim but it would fit within the data. To claim that all or even the majority of animal phyla appear in the Cambrian is demonstrably FALSE yet the claim is blindly made being repeated endlessly by apologist to apologist with no one even questioning the validity of the statement.


    So why did so many phyla 'suddenly' appear in Cambrian Seas? Basically, it was because of the evolution of hard shells that gave an animal a much greater probability for preservation. Hard shells are more easily fossilized than soft flesh. But why did the animals of the Cambrian evolve shells? There are several schools of thought; I will mention only a few of them. Probably all of the suggested causes had some influence on the development of hard skeletons. Bengston and Zhao (1992, p. 367) write: "The evolutionary mechanisms behind the origin of mineralized skeletons in animals at the Precambrian-Cambrian transition about 550 million years ago have been vigorously debated. One school holds that skeletal biomineralization began as a detoxification process, another that it evolved mainly to promote biomechanically efficient constructions for locomotion, feeding, and so on, yet another that it arose as a response to predation."




    THIRD VISUAL EXAMPLE
    VISUAL evidence for snake evolution as seen in photos in a letter published in NATURE magazine. You can plainly see the python's pelvic girdle with all the basic parts of a tetrapod's pelvis, AND ALSO SEE limb buds on the python embryo (that are later reabsorved). The author of the piece includes pics of leg buds in the chick embryo for comparison.
    "Developmental basis of limblessness and axial patterning in snakes" by Martin J .Cohn & Cheryll Tickle, NATURE VOL 399 3 JUNE 1999


    Other online articles feature photos of small fossilized limbs found on the earliest known relatives of what was to later become the snake family: "How the snake lost its legs" Discover, July, 1997 by Carl Zimmer
    "...How did snakes come to be? The distinctiveness of the animals obscures their ancestry. Their scales, eggs, and subtle features of their skulls show them to be descended from lizards, but it's been difficult to link them to any specific group. Unable to pin them down taxonomically, paleontologists have been able to construct only the flimsiest of scenarios for how snakes lost their limbs. But this confusion may now dissolve, thanks to a 100-million-year-old fossil of a snake with legs. The three-foot-long creature, Pachy rachis problematicus (meaning "problematic thick-ribbed animal"), was discovered in the late 1970s by quarryworkers 12 miles north of Jerusalem. After a preliminary study, Hebrew University herpetologist George Haas suggested that while the fossil looked serpentine, there was no evidence that it was closely related to snakes. There matters rested until 1996, when Michael Lee of the University of Sydney in Australia and Michael Caldwell of the Field Museum in Chicago came to Jerusalem to study the fossil more thoroughly. They exposed more of the fossil from its limestone slab and carefully compared its skeleton with those of snakes and lizards. "The first thing you've got to do is look at every possible animal it could be related to, and Haas didn't have access to lots of primitive snake material," says Lee. He and Caldwell conclude that Pachyrachis possesses many characteristics unique to snakes. Its body, for example, is long and sinuous: it has 140 vertebrae in its trunk; most lizards have just 25. And while lizards have open brain cases, Pachyrachis, like snakes, has a completely sealed one. Its jaws are extraordinarily flexible: the lower jaw doesn't fuse at the chin, so the two halves can bend out to the sides to swallow big prey. Many hinges lie along the length of both the upper and lower jaws to expand the gape even more. "They're snakes, no doubt about it," says Lee. Yet Pachyrachis still held on to some primitive bits of anatomy, and in them Lee and Caldwell glimpse the genealogy of snakes. Most obvious, of course, are the legs. The fossil of Pachyrachis bears two hind legs, each about an inch long, that lack only feet. It's possible that Pachyrachis's feet were washed away after it died, but Lee suspects they would have been vestigial at best, perhaps with a few toes. Less obvious but just as significant are its hips, which were outside its rib cage rather than within, and a number of diagnostic details of its spine and skull."...


    And see...


    This article, National Geographic Snake Evolution, this article, and these fascinating articles on the evolution of snake venom. Lenny Flank runs a yahoo group on creation and evolution. Here is an article by Lenny on snake evolution, unfortunately no photos




    FOURTH VISUAL EXAMPLE
    Carl Wieland at Answers in Genesis in his article, "The Strange Tale of the Leg on The Whale," attempted to dismiss evidence of pelvic and hind-limb remnants found on modern whales. For that purpose he used a photo of "the skeleton of a Greenland Right whale with bony disease," and suggested such remnants did not exist.
    Unfortunately, Wieland had not searched the literature very deeply for evidence for hind limb remnants found on modern day whales. Just compare the photo Wieland highlighted (above) with the diagrams of a dissection of a perfectly healthy Right Whale, one without bony disease, showing its pelvis, femur and tibia plain as day and the ligaments connecting them. In other words, Right whales have the hip bone connected to the leg bone, and the leg bone connected to the shin bone. Struthers' dissections were performed over a century ago, and revealed the anatomy of Right whales plain as day. For the dissection drawings and a discussion of the Right whale's pelvis, femur and tibia, scroll way down to EXAMPLE #5.


    Finally, see this article with photos at the website of a theistic evolutionist Christian


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    Genetic Mutations in Humans: From Feet to Flippers

    Timothy (arguing in defense of the 'Intelligent Design' hypothesis): "Evolution has certain severe problems to overcome before I am convinced:


    1. Mutations -- Mutations are the only way to introduce new genetic material into an organism. Thus, mutations are the driving force of Evolutionary theory. The problem with mutations are that the vast majority -- like a thousand to one -- are harmful. Thus, mutation is far more likely to destroy a species than cause it to evolve. If you throw a wrench at a car, you my fix it, but you are much more likely to damage it than fix it. To believe that a proven destructive force like mutation will eventually build a single complex living organism, much less ALL living organisms everywhere, is an act of faith, not of science."


    Sharon: I happen to know somebody who has a mutation that is "harmless". I do not know where Timothy gets his figures from about "a thousand to one" are harmless.


    The conversation called to mind what John F. Kennedy said about our relationship to the sea:
    "I really don't know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it's because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it's because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea -- whether it is to sail or to watch it -- we are going back from whence we came." --John F. Kennedy, Jr., 1962


    [Though the scientific data might have changed since 1962, the fact of our relationship with the sea, has not.]


    Of course the photographs we've collected of hind limbs on whales, and recently the flippers with toe nail photos on sea cows.


    I called the woman I know and we photographed her and her daughter's webbed toes. My question is sensible enough. If two types of mammals (Sirenians and Cetaceans) could return to the sea, and evolve webbing between their fingers or toes (eventually turning into a tail or flippers), couldn't this mutation show up in humans as well? Sirenians, Cetaceans and Humans are all mammals... it would seem they could have the same genetic mutations occur? I think these "webbed toes" are genetically, even if just remotely perhaps, some insight into land to sea mammal evolution. I also have a photograph of a dolphin embryo where the fingers are evident and they appear to be webbed [obtained from J.G.M. Thewissen's Digital Library of Dolphin Development] -- as you guys know even the flippers of whales have bones in them for digits (their evolutionary past with land mammals).


    Is there a relation between human webbed toes and the webbing that occured to transitional land to sea mammals?


    Thanks, Sharon




    I happened to have known somebody who has a mutation that is "harmless". I do not know where Timothy gets his figures from about "a thousand to one mutations" are harmless.


    Of course you know someone with a harmless mutation. Everybody has many many harmless mutations. Hair color, eye color, skin tone etc. are all mutations that are essentially harmless.
    The fins of Cetaceans don't have the digits spread out but rather a fairly tight mass with the digits all together. I'm not as familiar with Piniped morphology.
    The major changes to adapt to a marine lifestyle seem to be streamlining of the body, heat retention adaptations and metabolic and lung changes to allow more time between breaths. While aquatic birds and otters do have webbed digits I'm not sure if there is any evidence for it being a major factor in cetacean evolution.
    -Ken Shaw (talk.origins)



    Website on "Syndactyly"
    (a medical term for webbed fingers or webbed toes)


    My web site is a very modest effort to help people with syndactyly, and mothers of babies with syndactyly understand the condition better. Sort of an informal, unorganized self-help group.


    Recently, I received some input from a couple of ladies in India, one a Muslim college student. One does the correspondence for both. This helps to show how this is a global phenomenon which can and does happen "anywhere". I am thinking about changing part of the site to call itself the "World-Wide-Webbed-Toes" site.


    Your page seems to be directed to explaining syndactyly to people who do not have it, which is great. The people who visit my pages will still benefit from the pictures you provide. The more the better.


    One of the most common questions (Syndactyly FAQ?) concerns whether this is inherited. I tell people "yes and no". In some cases, there are too many close relatives with this condition to be explained by chance. Other cases, like mine, seem to be isolated, with no known relatives showing this condition. Neither of my children have syndactyly. I am still waiting for grandchildren. We will see what turns up when that happens.


    Best regards,


    Bill Luken






    Is there a relation between human webbed toes and the webbing that occured to transitional land to sea mammals?


    I believe there is. Developmentally it's just the turning off of apoptosis between the digits during early development. There are doubtless many different mutations, at many different parts of the developmental sequence, that could accomplish that same trick. Junk DNA would have nothing to do with it, and it's unlikely that the same mutation would be involved since there are probably so many possible ones.


    But the biggest problem with the creationist spiel has nothing to do with the frequency of neutral, beneficial, or deleterious mutations. (And remember that these categories are dependent on environment, by the way.) The biggest problem is a simple failure to understand natural selection. So what if the ratio of good to bad is 1:1000 (or whatever ratio you like)? Natural selection gets rid of the bad ones when they're at low frequencies, and promotes the good ones to high frequencies. Thus a mutation won't destroy a species; it may destroy an individual, but that's how natural selection works. The species as a whole collects good mutations, however rare they may be, through the differential reproductive success of individuals. How can one possibly criticize evolution without understanding its most basic principles?
    -John Harshman (talk.origins)




    I wonder if the same developmental mutation in your friend's gene happened in the homologous region of the dolphin's DNA? It would take a lot of research to discover that of course.


    We share lots of genes with mice, probably many with cetaceans too, since they were originally mammals and all mammals share a common ancestor. Some of those genes probably direct whether the skin between the finger bones dies or not. I was just wondering what the difference was between the genes that directed the development (and disappearance) of the skin between the fingers in human beings and cetacea. It's not something I know anything about, and I haven't heard that any cetacean genomes have been sequenced yet. Though they did sequence the human genome, the whole thing, and chimp genome, and rat genome, and mouse genome and chicken genome (very recently, this month in fact) and zebra-fish genome (ancient cousin of the fish that led to the first amphibians). I don't know what others are due next for sequencing. But the results so far don't pose any problems for evolutionists, since a lot of the same genes or very similar ones, have been found, even in creatures as far apart as mice and men. Recently a few developmental genes of the only known living species of lobe-finned fish have been sequenced. Not the whole genome, just a few genes, crucial developmental ones that play a role in fore-limb formation, because the lobe-finned fish preceded the earliest amphibians in the fossil record. And, as expected, the genes for the development of the forelimb of lobe-finned fishes more closely resembled those of mice than of other fishes (with their non-lobed-fore-fins). I am still collecting articles on all of this stuff. Oh, the guy who headed up the human genome sequencing project is a Christian, a theistic evolutionist. He thinks the creationists are an embarrassment to his faith.
    -Ed Babinski




    Email to Professor Thewissen
    December 19, 2004
    Dolphin Embryo Picture (Permission to use?)


    Dear Professor Thewissen,


    I had a conversation with a fellow who believes in Intelligent Design and part of his argument against Darwinism was "mutations are harmful". I got to thinking about a person I personally know who had a genetic mutation she was born with on her feet, and she passed this gene on to her daughter. They both have webbed toes, which appears similar to the process that took place on cetaceans and sirenians, with the digits webbing together to form a flipper... so I got photographs and created a page, and collected some comments from talk.origins on the question. (At least I feel there is something in common here... I would assume since cetaceans, sirenians and humans are all mammals, the same phenomena of feet to flippers, could [at least, hypothetically] happen.)


    I have borrowed the picture of the dolphin embryo with the webbed fingers, from your site (and placed proper credit to your URL on Dolphin Embryo Development site). I hope this is okay. By the way, you guys have done a wonderful job on that site.


    I hope there is no problem that I borrowed that photograph. I wanted to drop a line, just in case there was any problem about it. I've read on other pages from your site, that the photographs were accessible, as long as proper credit is given. Please let me know if there is any problem.


    Sincere appreciation,
    Sharon Mooney



    "J. G. M. Thewissen"
    Tuesday, December 21, 2004
    Subject: Re: Dolphin Embryo Picture (Permission to use?)


    No great, please use that image on your page.
    You have to be careful. A number of genes are involved, and the mechanism whereby a dolphin retains webbed feet might be very different from the mechanism whereby some humans retain webbed feet. For the dolphin, we don't know which genes are involved.
    Are you aware that all mammal embryos have webbed feet early in development, and then the skin flaps between the fingers die.
    Just making sure.
    Hans Thewissen




    "ed.babinski/furman.edu"
    Tuesday, December 21, 2004
    Subject: Re: Fw: Dolphin Embryo Picture (Permission to use?)


    He's right. All embryos have skin between the finger bones and that skin undergos cell death and shrivels away. I would assume it's the same genes or very similar genes in all mammals that direct the cell death process that makes the webbed skin die between the finger bones. If that gene gets mutated (or another gene related to that process) then the webbed skin would remain.
    The whale's skeleton closely resembles the skeletons of other mammals. For instance, the bones of the flippers resemble jointed limbs and digits and the neck has seven vertebrae like many other mammal species including man.
    (Even the giraffe's neck has the same standard number of vertebrae, seven!)


    [See The Macmillan Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals: A Visual Who's Who of Prehistoric Life, Collier Books: New York, 1988, pg. 230-231]



    Dolphin embryo with webbed fingers.

    In mammalian embryos, the forelimb initially forms as a small bump on the side of the chest, the so-called limb bud. The limb bud grows and flattens, and fingers become apparent. At later stages in dolphins (third and fourth specimen above) the fingers can be seen as individual entities, as they are in most mammals. Lateron, they disappear and are all embedded in a narrow, fin-like extremity called the flipper.
    Source: Digital Library of Dolphin Development

    If evolution is true and these tiny fingers are a glance back into the evolutionary history of dolphins, could it happen to humans?
    The answer is yes.

    Below are photographs of the genetic mutation which occured when a non-webbed toed mother gave birth to a daughter who had the webbed toe gene, and twenty five years later passed that gene on to her daughter.

    Mother and Daughter

    Photograph of mother and daughter. The Grandmother did not have webbed toes, and none of her relatives or immediate ancestors were known to have webbed toes. For both women, the genetic mutation is located on both feet, affecting the same toes.

    Toes shown from back.Toes shown from front.Toes shown from back.
    Webbed Toe

    Daughter's webbed toe. This webbing occurs on both feet, in the same location.

    Webbed Toe

    Mother's webbed toe. This webbing occurs on both feet, in the same location.

    Webbed Toe

    Daughter's webbed toe, on left foot.

    Webbed Toe

    Daughter's webbed toe, on right foot.

    Edward B.: I don't know if humans could evolve into cetaceans. Maybe, maybe not. There's limitations to consider. Usually species don't go back and re-evolve into one another. We share a common mammalian ancestor with cetaceans in the past, but species usually continue to diverge and go off in different directions.

    Sharon M.: Ed, I may not have a degree in biology but I'm not stupid. Of course humans wouldn't evolve into Cetaceans or Sirenians. What would they call a human with webbed hands and feet / fluke.

    Ah, yes, a mermaid !

    Edward B.: Dugong you're right!

    "My Webbed Toes Are Cool"


    February 22, 2005, "Joe" wrote:
    Thems not webbed feet its just two deformed toes that grew togeather, webbed toes have a thin skin in between those toes are joined togeather, big differance.


    Hi Joe, besides misspelling, I feel you have no real understanding of what syndactyly is. But thanks for the input.


    You need to refer to Dictionary com if you have any further questions and go from there.
    Syndactyly is not a simple "deformation". In fact, individuals with syndactyly would disagree with you about your callous label of their condition as "deformed". The lady in the pics above expressed having always felt her webbed toes were "neat" (in a cool kind of way). It is genetic and can be passed generation to generation. *smile*.

    1. Hereditary and Genetic
    2. Referred to as "Webbing" of Digits
    3. It is not an isolated deformation and the proper scientific name for the condition is "syndactyly."
    4. Found in mammals and birds

    syn·dac·ty·ly ( P ) Pronunciation Key (sn-dkt-l) or syn·dac·tyl·ism (-t-lzm) n. Biology
    The condition of having two or more fused digits, as occurs normally in certain mammals and birds.
    A congenital anomaly in humans characterized by two or more fused fingers or toes.


    Main Entry: syn·dac·ty·ly
    Pronunciation: -lE
    Function: noun
    Inflected Form: plural -lies
    : a union of two or more digits that is normal in many birds (as kingfishers) and in some lower mammals (as the kangaroos) and that occurs in humans often as a hereditary disorder marked by the joining or webbing of two or more fingers or toes


    syndactyly
    n : birth defect in which there is partial or total webbing connecting two or more fingers or toes [syn: syndactylism]


    syn·dac·ty·ly (sn-dkt-l)
    n.
    Webbing or fusion of the fingers or toes, involving soft parts only or including bone structure. Also called symphalangism, syndactylia, syndactylism, zygodactyly.
    Source: dictionary.reference.com


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    Answers in Genesis' Response on Evidence for Whale Evolution

    Ed,


    Very informative post! Your experience is very consistent with anyone who has tried to engage Sirfarti (aka "Socrates") at theologyweb.com. As a point of information, he has been banned or exiled or whatever from that site for the past four or five months due to rude behavior -- and that's no mean task, given that it's run by YEC fundamentalists.


    Thanks!


    Roger


    Hi,
    I'm new to the ASA list, or rather was on it years ago and just rejoined. I noticed a discussion about the young-earth creationist, Sarfati (or was it "Socrates" at tweb? -- are they different people or one and the same?) and his penchant for name calling, as mentioned two or three months ago in the ASA forum. I have my own story to add concerning Sarfati:


    About a year ago I read several articles at aig.org (Answers in Genesis website) that attempted to debunk evidence for cetacean evolution, but one article in particular attempted to debunk the claim that modern day cetaceans had been found with hind leg rudiments. According to the AiG author he could find no evidence of such things in the scientific literature. All that AiG had been able to find was a photo of a diseased pelvis of a Right whale, and the author claimed there was no evidence that the diseased bone in question was actually a pelvis, nor any evidence that the small protrusions extending from it on either side were rudimentary femurs.


    So I did some research of my own and obtained a few articles on hind limb rudiments that are occaisionally found on modern day cetaceans, and I posted the findings and photos and dissection drawings of a healthy Right whale's pelvis, femur and tibia bones.


    My webmaster was proud of the page she had put together and emailed Sarfati at AiG and asked him to respond to the evidence since the article questioned several AiG articles.


    Sarfati's "response" to my webmaster included him referring to me as "Blabinski" (instead of "Babinski"). Sarfati wrote, "Blabinski manages to miss the point of the [AiG] article," and added, "it's laughable from my perspective as a Ph.D. scientist (earned from a secular university) to hear non-scientists like you and Blabinski try to lecture me on science..." [Ironically, the sources I quoted were scientists who had studied cetaeans far more deeply than Sarfati had, but Sarfati continued to attack my credibiliy, as if that allowed him to reject the evidence out of hand. - Ed.] Sarfati wrote, "What qualifications does Babinski have? Actually, I know the answer to that -- zip, nada, zilch." [I have a Bachelor's in Biology from Fairleigh Dickenson University in New Jersey. - Ed.] Sarfati continued, "He's an affable enough person during emails, but his main claim to fame is as an editor of a book of "anti-testimonies" by assorted apostates. And he writes other junk... I haven't the slightest confidence that these reports are any more than more of the same wishful thinking... This time-wasting apostate deserves nothing but obscurity." He ended with, "I trust that you will also appreciate the immense busyness operating here; we have about 25,000 visitors to our site every day, and I'm finishing a book. So I hope you will understand that we can't possibly respond to all claims disseminated by every God-hater inhabiting the darker hovels of the Internet..."


    I sent Sarfati an invitation to look at the evidence, photos, dissection diagrams for himself. He has not yet said what he makes of the evidence for hind limb rudiements found on modern day whales. In fact, in the dissection of the Right whale at my site, Struthers found the hip bone connected to the leg bone, connected to the shin bone, by ligaments, as exists in ALL modern day Right whales, hidden inside their flesh:


    "Nothing can be imagined more useless to the animal than rudiments of hind legs entirely buried beneath the skin of a whale, so that one is inclined to suspect that these structures must admit of some other interpretation. Yet, approaching the inquiry with the most skeptical determination, one cannot help being convinced, as the dissection goes on, that these rudiments [in the Right Whale] really are femur and tibia. The synovial capsule representing the knee-joint was too evident to be overlooked. An acetabular cartilage, synovial cavity, and head of femur, together represent the hip-joint. Attached to this femur is an apparatus of constant and strong ligaments, permitting and restraining movements in certain directions; and muscles are present, some passing to the femur from distant parts, some proceeding immediately from the pelvic bone to the femur, by which movements of the thigh-bone are performed; and these ligaments and muscles present abundant instances of exact and interesting adaptation. But the movements of the femur are extremely limited, and in two of these whales the hip-joint as firmly anchylosed, in one of them on one side, in the other on both sides, without trace of disease, showing that these movements may be dispensed with. The function point of view fails to account for the presence of a femur in addition to processes from the pelvic bone. Altogether, these hind legs in this whale present for contemplation a most interesting instance of those significant parts in an animal -- rudimentary structures." [Struthers, p. 142-143]




    DAVID: Sarfati's "I have a PhD and you don't" attacks are especially ill-founded given that his batchelor's and PhD are in chemistry. He has no more official qualification to talk about evolutionary biology than any layman. Of course, people without degrees in a field can be quite knowledgeable; it is the citation of a chemistry PhD as proof of authority on evolution that is problematic.


    ED:

    Sarfati responded: "How exactly are they are un-christlike? It seems 'un-Christ-like' not to believe what He [Christ] did about Genesis!"

    DAVID: As He didn't say anything about the age of the earth, this claim is questionable. Perhaps more fundamentally, Genesis never says you should lie about whale anatomy. Belief in a young earth does not require belief in the false claims of creation science. It's a popular creation science tactic to label any questioning of their claims as an attack on the Bible.


    ED:

    So, the problem may lie not only with Sarfati, but perhaps with "Biblical language" itself. I could of course give examples of some serious rhetoric from the Bible, far more serious and sarcastic than Sarfati's.

    DAVID: Plenty of examples from church history, too...


    Different situations may call for harsher rhetorical styles. E.g., some of the Biblical examples were elicited by harsh comments (e.g., Amos vs. Amaziah).


    The fundamental discrepancy between Sarfati's language and Biblical examples is that he is using it to defend his own deviations from Biblical standards of truth and quality.



    Dr. David Campbell
    Old Seashells
    University of Alabama
    Biodiversity & Systematics
    Dept. Biological Sciences
    Box 870345
    Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0345 USA

    That is Uncle Joe, taken in the masonic regalia of a Grand Exalted Periwinkle of the Mystic Order of Whelks-P.G. Wodehouse, Romance at Droitgate Spa


    From: "ed babinski"

    My webmaster told Sarfati: "I found your comments highly insulting, un-christlike, and exceptionally un-professional."
    Sarfati responded: "How exactly are they are un-christlike? It seems 'un-Christ-like' not to believe what He [Christ] did about Genesis!"


    Also, in fairness of Sarfati's sharp sarcastic tongue, is his verbal behavior inconceivably worse than the verbal behaviors of prophets, psalmists, Jesus and Paul, who employed some serious rhetoric at times? For instance, when I questioned Sarfati about the way he addresses people whose beliefs differ from his own, he directed me to an online article by J. P. Holding, titled, "Is it 'Un-Christian' To Engage in Satire?"
    http://www.tektonics.org/lp/madmad.html


    So, the problem may lie not only with Sarfati, but perhaps with "Biblical language" itself. I could of course give examples of some serious rhetoric from the Bible, far more serious and sarcastic than Sarfati's.


    Yes, the Bible uses pretty bruising language sometimes - e.g., Gal.5:12.
    (The idea there is "I hope that when they're being circumcised the knife slips.") But aside from ethical issues, the following points should be considered.


    1) People should not use sarcasm, ridicule unless it's actually funny & effective. Most people who use such devices make themselves look silly because they don't know how to do it. E.g., distorting someone's name - Blabinski for Babinski - is childish. It's at about the same level as when my daughter learned the telling put-down "doody head" in 1st grade (in Australia). When adults use language like this it's a reasonable inference that their arguments are weak & that they're putting up a smokescreen.


    2) There are 2 very different situations that are relevant here. The biblical writers are using sarcasm & as a rhetorical device in the public arena. E.g., Paul was trying to persuade one group of people (e.g., the Galatian Christians) that another group (the Judaizers) were wrong and that he was right. Generally that kind of thing happens when a dispute has already become more or less public and opposing positions have been set. In the situation you've described, OTOH, Sarfati was (as I understand it) dealing with you as a private individual. The only purpose such rhetoric serves then is intimidation.


    I think that the best thing to do with Sarfati & those of his ilk is to leave them, as much as possible, severely alone. Their claims need to be refuted as strongly as possible in whatever media are available, & this includes saying bluntly, with supporting evidence, that those claims are false, absurd - & if the evidence warrants it, lies. But trying to debate with hardline YEC cadres is a waste of time. Efforts should be directed instead to trying to keep them from infecting others.


    Whatever the biblical examples may be, childish rhetoric should be avoided. Intelligent people can see through it.


    Shalom
    George

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    Whale Anatomy and Photos of Limb Rudiments on Modern Day Whales

    Whale Anatomy and Photos of Limb Rudiments on Modern Day Whales
    Whale Evolution: photos of modern day whale skeletons from the display at the Milwaukee Public Museum with addtl. comments by Professor J.G.M. "Hans" Thewissen, Ph.D.


    This article began thanks to this lead:
    I am one of the very privileged few that I know who has extensively studied the skeletal anatomy of humpback whales. They do, in fact have hind limb rudiments. Anyone can see this if they just go to the Milwaukee Public Museum and see for themselves. They have an excellent specimen on display that has the limb rudiments in-place. Take a look at the photograph (admitedly this one does not show the limb details, but the whale is indeed on display for anyone to look at).
    -- George; July 22, 2003 (sci.bio.paleontology)

    Milwaukee Public Museum Whale Exibit


    Thanks to the lead which George provided us with, Ed Babinski went about contacting the Milwaukee Public Museum. They graciously provided several photographs of their beautiful whale exhibit.




    I do not have many photos of the whale, and the few I do have are taken from the front.


    But I found this one taken during the installation of an exhibit in the mid 1980s
    (it has since been moved to another exhibit area).


    Maybe it will work for you.


    Susan Otto
    Milwaukee Public Museum
    Photo Collection




    Attached are the photos you requested.
    We have two whale skeletons on exhibit, a Humpback and a Pilot.


    Sincerely,
    Nate Kraucunas
    Milwaukee Public Museum


    Nathan E. Kraucunas
    Curator of Birds & Mammals
    Vertebrate Zoology Section
    Milwaukee Public Museum
    800 W. Wells Street
    Milwaukee, WI 53233
    414.278.2782
    natek/mpm.edu


    Click on photos for enlarged image


    Whale Pic #1 (from the Front)

    Humpback Whale Pic #1

    Humpback Whale Pic #2

    Humpback Whale Pic#3

    Humpback Whale #4

    Pilot Whale Pic #1

    Pilot Whale Pic #2

    Pilot Whale Pic #3


    Due to varied Creation Science articles located on the web, which claim there are no photographs of these hind limbs on modern whales, it was our desire to scout out photographs which contained clear evidence of hind limb rudiments on modern day whales.


    The following are excerpts of email correspondence relative to discussions on the topic:


    Edward Babinski
    Thursday, July 24, 2003
    Subject: Whale Evolution and Hind Limb Rudiments
    Subject: Are these classified as vestigial limbs, or vestigial pelvises on whales in the museum photos?


    Vestigial pelvises (hipbones) in modern day whales.


    I don't know whether the museum pics should be displayed as "vestigial hind limbs," Maybe the Baleen whale is a hipbone with a leg bone fused to it at an angle, but I can't tell. It could just be a pelvis with no vestigial hind limb. From the pics I've seen of whale pelvises, that's all it might be. The vestigial leg bone in Baleen whales is usually just an ovoidal bone, the pelvis reduced to an egg-shaped bone, and I don't see that in the photo. It's often overlooked according to one of those Japanese experts on vestigial whale hind limbs. And so that may be why it isn't hanging from the ceiling in the museum. But I can't prove that. All I can say is that the most you can safely say is that those whale skeletons show a vestigial pelvis.


    The photos of the hind leg rudiments, which are rarer, show more, even the Right Whale dissection diagrams show more, like pelvis, femur and tibia, which only the Right Whale has.


    Best, Ed




    We contacted Professor Hans Thewissen, Ph.D., whom is a renowned expert on Paleontology / Whale Anatomy / Whale Origins


    This is what the Professor had to say in our exchange of emails:




    J. G. M. Thewissen, Ph. D.
    Thursday, July 24, 2003
    Subject: Are these classified as vestigial limbs, or vestigial pelvises on whales in the museum photos?


    For the record, all cetaceans that I am familiar with have pelvic remnants in their abdomen. Many cetaceans, especially the great whales, also have a remnant of the femur in their abdomen. I believe that humpbacks have the remnants for both pelvis and femur, but I will have to look it up to be sure (which I will do when I get your page). To say that the pelvis in the humpback is not a pelvis because it is not attached to the vertebral column is silly, we have a good series of fossils documenting that in early whale evolution, the pelvis bones detach from the vertebral column. At that point they totally look like pelves still (with obturator foramen, ilium, ischium). I attach a pdf of a paper that has a picture showing some early pelves. (BioScience: Whale Evolution, the Poster Child for MacroEvolution).


    To say that a pelvic remnant does not qualify as a limb remnant because it is not limb is technically correct. Anatomists would call it the limb girdle, but that is just semantics, limbs are always attached to limb girdles. Anyway it does not even matter in your case if humpbacks have femoral remnants as well. It is also silly to say that it can't be pelvis because genital muscles attach to the bone. (*)The genital muscles attach always to the pelvis, including in humans and artiodactyls (whales' relatives). That argument would actually support the homology of the bone to the pelvis, the opposite of what AIG claims. Send me the page and we'll talk more.

    Hans Thewissen




    Please take notice of what the Professor stated in his above email:


    ( * ) The genital muscles attach always to the pelvis, including in humans and artiodactyls (whales' relatives). That argument would actually support the homology of the bone to the pelvis, the opposite of what AIG claims.


    This is a simple matter of common sense, which Creation Scientists have failed to properly acknowledge in their varied attempts to refute whale evolution.


    Another email of significance written by Professor Thewissen
    explaining why the femur is not present on the humpback exhibit at the museum:




    J. G. M. Thewissen, Ph. D.
    Friday, July 25, 2003
    Subject: Are these classified as vestigial limbs, or vestigial pelvises on whales in the museum photos?


    I found the webpage, and the nice photo of the humpback whale. It shows the remnant of the left and right pelvis, but there is no remnant of the femur.


    The best dissection of this region in the Humpback is by John Struthers, published in 1893.
    Dissections by Struthers


    It shows that in Humpback whales there is a pelvic remnant, similar to the one in your whale, consisting of bone. Struthers also shows that Humpbacks have a remnant of the femur, however, it consists not of bone but instead of cartilage. This is why it was lost in the humpback that the museum mounted. So, the humpback had a femur remnant, but it is not present in the mount.


    I think that your label of the photograph is ok, although technically it is not hindlimb but hindlimb girdle. I think that this it is not necessary to change it, and it is just semantics. I can take silly semantics a step further. Technically, the bone that you do show should not be called the pelvis (which is a term that includes soft-tissue as well as sacrum), but instead the innominate. But that takes it to a purist level. Purist anatomical terms get in the way of a real understanding of the implications.


    Hans Thewissen


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