STL Science Center

STL Science Center

05 May 2015

Paper Pile of Whale-like Proportions

Delighting once again in the popularity of an animal, we have many many papers at our disposal. Whales, as previously mentioned, are charismatic megafauna and due to the fragmentary nature of many fossils have come under fire and reveled in the delight of the masses, often at the same time. We therefore have piles of literature for and against the evolutionary implications of Ambulocetus as well as whales in general. The key papers for today, however, are those concerned specifically with the biomechanics and the origin of Ambulocetus and other whales. Time is of great import in all paleontological studies, and the pinpointing of the origin of whales is an interesting discussion to enter into. Since there are now a variety of whale-line fossils, pinpointing the exact species or genus that should be considered the first true whale is an interesting, and potentially impossible, diagnosis at the present time. This has not stopped anyone, and the discovery of fossils in India have been used to make arguments dating whales to approximately 54 mya. Perhaps of more interest to most people are the biomechanical implications of Ambulocetus locomotion. This topic is covered in a number of papers, but an investigation into the artiodactyl relationship of whales and the description of more holotypes and what they reveal biomechanically caught my eye above all others. The description paper is nice to read, but the video yesterday basically did the description for us, so enjoy these papers and feel free to find others. I have another few to potentially mention tomorrow.

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