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Whale ultrasonics surprisingly old

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Echovenator/A. Gennari

From ScienceDaily:

“Our study suggests that high-frequency hearing may have preceded the emergence of echolocation,” says Morgan Churchill of New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury, New York.

Churchill and his colleagues made their discovery in studies of a new fossil whale species (Echovenator sandersi) found in a drainage ditch in South Carolina. The researchers CT scanned the ancient whale’s remarkably complete fossilized ear and compared it to those of two hippos and 23 fossil and living whales. Those analyses uncovered many features found today in dolphins, which can hear at ultrasonic frequencies.More. Paper. (paywall) – Churchill et al. The Origin of High-Frequency Hearing in Whales. Current Biology, 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.06.004

File under: It all just suddenly happened for no particular reason.

See also: Orca evolution driven by culture?

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10 Replies to “Whale ultrasonics surprisingly old

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    Now, researchers who studied one of the best-preserved ears of any ancient whale ever discovered find that whales’ high-frequency hearing abilities arose earlier than anticipated.

    And when was it anticipated?


  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    File under: It all just suddenly happened for no particular reason.

    Disagree. They had a strong reason: weak cell phone signals in the oceans.


  3. 3
    Rationalitys bane says:

    Interesting, and rather discussing, little fact. Scientists use the ear wax in whales to determine their age.

  4. 4
    Robert Byers says:

    It muist of come instantly from triggers in the dna. How could survive a long time without it but then need it and poof there it is
    This YEC insists marine mammals were first land lovers and only adapted to a empty post flood sea.
    So it had to be as quick as people changing colour etc.
    Why not?

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Functional Proteins and Information for Body Plans – Stephen Meyer – video

    Whale Evolution vs. Population Genetics – Richard Sternberg and Paul Nelson – (excerpted from ‘Living Waters’ video) (2015)

    The Origin of Man and the “Waiting Time” Problem – John Sanford – August 10, 2016
    Excerpt: My colleagues and I recently published a paper in Theoretical Biology and Medical Modeling, “The Waiting Time Problem in a Model Hominin Population.” It is one of the journal’s “highly accessed” articles. A pre-human hominin population of roughly 10,000 individuals is thought to have evolved into modern man, during a period of less than six million years. This would have required the establishment of a great deal of new biological information. That means, minimally, millions of specific beneficial mutations, and a large number of specific beneficial sets of mutations, selectively fixed in this very short period of time. We show that there is simply not enough time for this type of evolution to have occurred in the population from which we supposedly arose.
    Historically, Darwin-defenders have argued that time is on their side. They have claimed that given enough time, any evolutionary scenario is feasible. They have consistently argued that given millions of years, very large amounts of new biologically meaningful information can arise by the Darwinian process of mutation/selection. However, careful analysis of what is required to establish even a single genetic “word” (a short functional string of genetic letters) within a hominin genome shows just the opposite. Even given tens of millions of years, there is not enough time to generate the genetic equivalent of the simplest “word” (two or more nucleotides). Even in a hundred billion years, much longer than the age of the universe, there is not enough time to establish the genetic equivalent of a very simple “sentence” (ten or more nucleotides). This problem is so fundamental that it justifies a complete re-assessment of the basic Darwinian mechanism.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Whale Evolution vs. Population Genetics – Richard Sternberg and Paul Nelson – (excerpted from ‘Living Waters’ video) (2015)

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:


    Spider silk: Mother Nature’s bio-superlens – August 19, 2016
    Excerpt: Physical laws of light make it impossible to view objects smaller than 200 nm — the smallest size of bacteria, using a normal microscope alone. However, superlenses which enable us to see beyond the current magnification have been the goal since the turn of the millennium.,,,
    Now the team,,, has used a naturally occurring material — dragline silk of the golden web spider, as an additional superlens, applied to the surface of the material to be viewed, to provide an additional 2-3 times magnification.
    This is the first time that a naturally occurring biological material has been used as a superlens.,,
    “We have proved that the resolution barrier of microscope can be broken using a superlens,,,
    “It is very exciting to find yet another cutting edge and totally novel use for a spider silk, which we have been studying for over two decades in my laboratory.”,,,

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest to the preceding article is this recent article:

    Spiders spin unique phononic material – July 25, 2016
    Excerpt: Scientists,, studied the microstructure of spider silk to see how it transmits phonons, quanta of sound that also have thermal properties.,,,
    New discoveries about spider silk could inspire novel materials to manipulate sound and heat in the same way semiconducting circuits manipulate electrons,,,,
    A paper,, looks at the microscopic structure of spider silk and reveals unique characteristics in the way it transmits phonons, quasiparticles of sound.
    The research shows for the first time that spider silk has a phonon band gap. That means it can block phonon waves in certain frequencies in the same way an electronic band gap – the basic property of semiconducting materials – allows some electrons to pass and stops others.
    The researchers wrote that their observation is the first discovery of a “hypersonic phononic band gap in a biological material.”

    Of personal note, I would not be surprised if researchers found this surprising design feature for sound, the “hypersonic phononic band gap” that was found in spider silk, to also be pervasive in all classes of functional proteins. The reason why is that it would provide the mechanism by which sound and light could both communicate with each other within the cell.

    a few assorted notes to that effect

    Phonons are just lattice vibrations, but we imagine them as particles that carry this vibrational energy in a similar manner to photons i.e. they are discrete and quantized.,,  The allowed frequencies of propagation wave are split into an upper branch known as the optical branch, and a lower branch called the acoustical branch. 

    Why do phonons and photons have such similar names? – July 22, 2013
    “Phonons” were named in analogy to “photons”.  The prefix “photo-” means “light”, and “phono-” means “sound”.  The suffix “-on” means “particle”.  That one isn’t Latin, but it is pretty standard.  Photons are the smallest possible excited states of the electromagnetic field and are the smallest unit of light, while phonons are the smallest possible excited states of the mechanical system made up of atoms in a crystal and are the smallest possible unit of sound.

    Symphony of Life, Revealed: New Imaging Technique Captures Vibrations of Proteins, Tiny Motions Critical to Human Life – Jan. 16, 2014
    Excerpt: To observe the protein vibrations, Markelz’ team relied on an interesting characteristic of proteins: The fact that they vibrate at the same frequency as the light they absorb.
    This is analogous to the way wine glasses tremble and shatter when a singer hits exactly the right note. Markelz explained: Wine glasses vibrate because they are absorbing the energy of sound waves, and the shape of a glass determines what pitches of sound it can absorb. Similarly, proteins with different structures will absorb and vibrate in response to light of different frequencies.
    So, to study vibrations in lysozyme, Markelz and her colleagues exposed a sample to light of different frequencies and polarizations, and measured the types of light the protein absorbed.
    This technique, , allowed the team to identify which sections of the protein vibrated under normal biological conditions. The researchers were also able to see that the vibrations endured over time, challenging existing assumptions.
    “If you tap on a bell, it rings for some time, and with a sound that is specific to the bell. This is how the proteins behave,” Markelz said. “Many scientists have previously thought a protein is more like a wet sponge than a bell: If you tap on a wet sponge, you don’t get any sustained sound.”

    The Real Bioinformatics Revolution – Proteins and Nucleic Acids ‘Singing’ to One Another?
    Excerpt: the molecules send out specific frequencies of electromagnetic waves which not only enable them to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ each other, as both photon and phonon modes exist for electromagnetic waves, but also to influence each other at a distance and become ineluctably drawn to each other if vibrating out of phase (in a complementary way).,,, More than 1 000 proteins from over 30 functional groups have been analysed. Remarkably, the results showed that proteins with the same biological function share a single frequency peak while there is no significant peak in common for proteins with different functions; furthermore the characteristic peak frequency differs for different biological functions. ,,, The same results were obtained when regulatory DNA sequences were analysed.

    Engineers make sound (with high enough frequency) to bend light on a computer chip – Nov 26, 2014
    Excerpt: “Our breakthrough is to integrate optical circuits in the same layer of material with acoustic devices in order to attain extreme strong interaction between light and sound waves,”,,
    The researchers used the state-of-the-art nanofabrication technology to make arrays of electrodes with a width of only 100 nanometers (0.00001 centimeters) to excite sound waves at an unprecedented high frequency that is higher than 10 GHz, the frequency used for satellite communications.
    “What’s remarkable is that at this high frequency, the wavelength of the sound is even shorter than the wavelength of light. This is achieved for the first time on a chip,”,,
    They are investigating the interaction between single photons (the fundamental quantum unit of light) and single phonons (the fundamental quantum unit of sound). The researcher plan to use sound waves as the information carriers for quantum computing.

    Quantum criticality in a wide range of important biomolecules
    Excerpt: “Most of the molecules taking part actively in biochemical processes are tuned exactly to the transition point and are critical conductors,” they say.
    That’s a discovery that is as important as it is unexpected. “These findings suggest an entirely new and universal mechanism of conductance in biology very different from the one used in electrical circuits.”
    The permutations of possible energy levels of biomolecules is huge so the possibility of finding even one that is in the quantum critical state by accident is mind-bogglingly small and, to all intents and purposes, impossible.,, of the order of 10^-50 of possible small biomolecules and even less for proteins,”,,,
    “what exactly is the advantage that criticality confers?”

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    of related note:

    (“Delocalized” Quantum) Sound-like bubbles whizzing around in DNA essential to life – Jun 1, 2016
    Excerpt: new research in the UK has detected sound-like bubbles in DNA that is essential to life and which will change the fundamental understanding of biochemical reactions inside a cell.
    The research,,, describes how double-stranded DNA splits using delocalized sound waves that are the hallmark of quantum effects.,,,
    Dedicated enzymes responsible for making new proteins read the code by splitting the double strand in order to access the information.
    One of the big outstanding questions of biology has been how these enzymes find the initial hole or “bubble” in the double strand to start reading the code.,,,
    researcher Gopakumar Ramakrishnan said: “It had been proposed by theoreticians that such DNA bubbles might behave like sound waves, bouncing around in DNA like echoes in a cathedral. However, the current paradigm in biology is that such sound-like dynamics are irrelevant to biological function, as interaction of a biomolecule with the surrounding water will almost certainly destroy any of these effects.”,,,
    Researchers in the Ultrafast Chemical Physics group carried out experiments with a laser that produces femtosecond laser pulses about a trillion times shorter than a camera flash.
    This allowed them to succeed in the detection of sound-like bubbles in DNA. They could show that these bubbles whiz around like bullets in a shooting gallery even in an environment very similar to that which can be found in a living cell.
    Thomas Harwood said, a researcher said: “The sound waves in DNA are not your ordinary sound waves. They have a frequency of a few terahertz or a billion times higher than a human or a dog can hear!”
    Professor Klaas Wynne, leader of the research team and Chair in Chemical Physics at the University of Glasgow, said, “The terahertz sound-like bubbles we have seen alter our fundamental understanding of biochemical reactions. There were earlier suggestions for a role of delocalized quantum phenomena in light harvesting, magneto reception, and olfaction.”
    The new results now imply a much more general role for sound-like delocalized phenomena in biomolecular processes.

  10. 10
    mahuna says:

    I find it rather odd that the ENTIRE discussion is on the appearance of a sensitive ear. Did these “researchers” simply FORGET to look for the SENDING parts of the echo-location system?

    Having a sensitive ear gets you NOTHING except more background noise unless you’re sending your own outbound signals. And then of course your brain has to be wired to process the bounce-back echoes to give you distance and bearing.

    Or are the researchers seriously arguing that we have evidence of an ancient whale that had PART of an echo location system without the whole bag? And exactly what ADVANTAGE does a whale-like fishy receive from PART of an echolocation system?

    My guess would be that as with bats, the first example of the new form had EVERYTHING needed for living and hunting under water. And that this wondrous creature appeared POOF! with no half-whale predecessors. Such a new creature clearly did not EVOLVE from ANY other animal.

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