Subject: Re: whale evolution

Robert Kenney (
Mon, 10 Nov 97 09:50:13 EST

oops, forgot to copy the archives.

>Date: Mon, 10 Nov 1997 09:48:34
>From: Robert Kenney <>
>Subject: Re: whale evolution
>At 21:51 11/9/97 -0500, you wrote:
>>I was wondering about the evolution of whales?  Could you e-mail me any
>>information about the evolution of whales?
>>Thank you,
>The short answer is that the best available evidence is that whales evolved
from a terrestrial ancestor that resembled a wolf or hyaena, only with its
five toes ending in small hooves rather than claws.  This ancestral species
belonged to a group called the mesonychids, or was closely related to them.
(You also have to remember that our understanding of the evolutionary
history of any group is based on a very incomplete fossil record, and so can
never be more than a hypothesis based on the best information available at
the time and always subject to change when new evidence is uncovered).
>If you want to read the detailed technical papers on marine mammal
evolution, go to the scientific literature and look for the names Fordyce,
Barnes, Gingerich, Thewissen, and Wyss.  If you go to the ASK archives,
there are several previous messages with suggested references on whale
evolution.  Here are two more.  I have found some of the better
non-technical information on a variety of subjects in books published by
Facts on File Publications.  "Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises", edited by
R.J. Harrison and M.M. Bryden (Facts on File, 1988) is a good introduction
to cetaceans, with lots of pictures and a section on evolution.  "Mammal
Evolution, An Illustrated Guide" by R.J.C. Savage and M.R. Long (Facts on
File, 1986) has a whole chapter on the evolution of aquatic and marine mammals.
>Dr. Bob 

 | Robert D. Kenney, Ph.D.      |
 | University of Rhode Island          ('gsosunONE' not 'gsosunELL') |
 | Graduate School of Oceanography                                   |
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