Toothy whale fossil found, according to reports in BBC News 9 December 2015, ABC News 10 December 2015, and PLoS ONE doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0135551. Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, USA, have studied the skull of a fossil sperm whale that had been found in 1909 in California. It had been stored in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where it has been incorrectly labelled as the skull of an extinct walrus. The whale has been named Albicetus oxymycterus and is dated as 15 million years old.

The fossil whale had more robust jaws than modern sperm whales, and scientists estimate it was about six metres (20ft) long and weighed about five tonnes. This is smaller than present day sperm whales, which can grow to 18 metres (60ft). The fossil’s skull shape also indicates it had a smaller spermaceti organ, a round mass of waxy material that gives some whales a bulbous forehead.

Alex Boersma of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History, one of the research team, commented: “It was evident to us at first look that it was different from any other fossil sperm whale we had seen, which meant that it may hold the key to important titbits about the evolution of sperm whales”.

The researchers wrote in their summary: “Our results indicate that Albicetus was a large, stem physeteroid with a seemingly unique combination of diagnostic features observed in no other living or fossil physeteroid”. (Physeteroid is the scientific name for sperm whales.)

The fossil was very large and heavy, and embedded in rock, but Nick Pyenson, the curator of fossil marine mammals and colleagues were able to get an accurate picture of it using modern scanning techniques. To their surprise they found it has teeth in both upper and lower jaws. Alex Boersma explained: “Modern sperm whales only have teeth in their lower jaw, partly because their main food source is squid. To see a fossil sperm whale like ours that has these big prominent teeth in both the lower and upper jaws suggests they were feeding on something very different – possibly other marine animals”.

According to Alex Boersma, “The presence of large upper and lower teeth suggests that Albicetus was likely hyper-carnivorous, meaning that it fed primarily on other marine mammals such as smaller whales and seals”.

Nicholas Pyenson, commented: “I wouldn’t have wanted to be a seal in the Miocene oceans”.


Editorial Comment: This find tells us nothing about how sperm whales may have evolved. All the fossil and living sperm whales ever observed are fully formed sperm whales. The description of “seemingly unique combination of diagnostic features” fits with a creation based classification of living things, where each created kind is a unique combination of non-unique parts.

Did you catch the twist in the tail? This fossil whale had both upper and lower teeth, while modern day sperm whales only have lower teeth, as in the illustration above. If Albicetus was the ancestor of any modern sperm whales it is evidence that whales have degenerated, i.e. lost structures, rather than evolved any new features.

We also challenge the assertion that sperm whales have no upper teeth because they eat squid, instead of seals. It is more likely that they eat squid, because they have lost their upper teeth, and can’t eat things that need two sets of teeth to eat. Whales with both sets of teeth could still eat squid if they wanted to, so why should eating squid make them lose their teeth? My Grandmother did not eat steak after she lost her teeth but you are right, it wasn’t eating things less tough than steak that caused her to lose her teeth.

Furthermore, having two sets of teeth set in robust jaws does not make an animal a “hypercarnivore”. Teeth are just as useful for eating plant foods, and do not give a creature an aggressive nature.

Altogether this fossil is good evidence that the real history of whales is created kinds that have degenerated as the world has gone downhill from its original created perfection, just as Genesis tells us. (Ref. cetaceans, marine biology, diet)

Evidence News vol. 15, no 25
16 December 2015
Creation Research Australia