STL Science Center

STL Science Center

07 February 2017

Stereotypical Papers

One of the most highly anticipated discoveries in the whale research is the purpose of vestigial hindlimbs and, heavily coinciding with that topic, when the hindlimbs became entirely vestigial. I bring this up because two and a half (one paper being a description of the entire skeleton and mentioning the limbs and lack thereof) of the first five papers that appear in a standard search for Basilosaurus are concerned with the pelvic girdle an the hindlimbs. The evidence of hindlimbs and feet, discussions on the pelvic girdle (hips) themselves, and a treatise on the jaws and "other parts" figure prominently in Basilosaurus research. As an early whale this is not only expected, but also somewhat unimpressive, given that it is expected. The finds themselves are impressive and tell us a lot about the evolution of whales and what makes a whale a whale. Those of the readers interested in the teeth and biting of Basilosaurus are not left out, there is a wonderful paper on bite marks and the forces associated with Basilosaurus bites in a Dorudon (another type of whale) that is available online to read. This paper includes very clear photographs of Dorudon fossils as well as some nice reconstructions of the wounding action.

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