whale legs

From: Jennifer Philips (jphilips@hawaii.edu)
Date: Fri Jan 25 2002 - 18:44:13 EST


Dear Jen,

       I read in National Geographic that modern whales
occasionally sprout
a leg through atavism. I'm REALLY curious to see a picture
of this. Do you
know anywhere that there's a photo of a whale with a leg or
two?

Thanks,

Kisa NYC

I actually don't have any photos of whales with legs, and my
search on the web (the best place for something like that!)
turned up nothing. The topic is familiar to me, though, and
a fair bit of discussion abounds on whether the stories
themselves are actually true. Assuming they are, it is not
all too unbelievable considering the current understanding
of the evolution of whales. Modern whales have vestigial
legs which do not normally protrude from their bodies. They
are essentially what is left of their pelvis/femur structure
and thought by some to function today as an attachment point
for important muscular systems (which, if true makes them
not "vestigial" at all, merely an evolved structure). In a
few whales, the genes describing that structure may well
have mutated, causing real femurs to form and protrude from
the body. I wish I could find some photos for you!

Thanks for your question to Whalenet!
Jen Philips



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