Echolocating whale fossil found, according to reports in, ScienceDaily and Nature doi:10.1038/nature13086, 12 March 2014, and ABC News in Science 13 March 2014. Toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises (scientifically named odontocetes) use echolocation to navigate their way as well as to find objects. Echolocation involves producing high frequency sound waves from a structure in the nasal passage, and modifying the sound with air sinuses and a ‘melon’ – an ovoid shaped structure in the whale’s head, filled with fat tissue that gives these whales their distinctive rounded heads. Echolocation is really the original sonar.

According to Jonathan Geisler of New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, and colleagues, “All extant odontocetes seem to echolocate; however, exactly when and how this complex behaviour—and its underlying anatomy—evolved is largely unknown”.

Geisler’s team have studied a fossil whale found in South Carolina, USA. The whale has been named Cotylocara macei and is dated as 28 million years old. The whale’s skull has some unusual features not seen in living whales, but it has structures seen in known echolocating whales and the researchers have concluded it used echolocation. According to Geisler, “Its dense bones and air sinuses would have helped this whale focus its vocalizations into a probing beam of sound, which likely helped it find food at night or in muddy water ocean waters”. The unusual features of the skull were a deep cavity in the top of its head and “a radar-dish-like shelf of bone around the nasal that could have reflected sound and improved its echolocation ability”.

Geisler commented: “The most important conclusion of our study involves the evolution of echolocation and the complex anatomy that underlies this behaviour. This was occurring at the same time that whales were diversifying in terms of feeding behaviour, body size, and relative brain size”.

ABC, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: So what’s actually fact in this report?

1. The creature had the structures needed for producing and modifying sound.

2. The authors obviously ignore what submarine designers and warship sonar engineers cannot: there is more to echolocation that just having the right sound producing apparatus. Echolocation also involves interpreting the echoes, and any theory about the origin of echolocation must not only explain how sound producing structures came about, but also how the animals ears and brain acquired the features for receiving and interpreting reflected sounds. Without these, there is no point in having the sound producing structures.

3. Therefore, this fossil does not show how echolocation could evolve.

4.This fossil, along with living whales, is good evidence that echolocating whales of any species extant or extinct have always been fully formed, fully functioning creatures equipped for using sound to find their way around under water and find food.

5. The only reason the authors of this study reached their conclusions about the evolution of echolocation in whales, is by using the unstated assumption that evolution is a fact, when their data does not show it is at all.

6. Lastly, read the whole of the original articles if you can, and notice one more FACT: none of the discovery is at odds with God’s statement that He created: “great whales, and every living creature that moves, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day”. (Genesis 1:21-23)

Evidence News vol. 14, No. 4
27 March 2014
Creation Research Australia