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Possible new sense organ discovered in whales?


From “A whale of a story,” Nature 485, 416 (24 May 2012), we learn,

Rorqual whales capture much of their food by an extraordinary procedure known as lunge feeding. When a rorqual comes across a dense patch of prey, it accelerates through the water and open its mouth. As it does so, its mouth fills with water, suspended within which are the tiny animals that the whale wants. The amount of water that flows into the whale can more than double the creature’s weight, and to accommodate it, blubbery pleats under the lower jaw expand, just as an accordion grows as it fills with air. The once sleek and streamlined whale now has the shape of a bloated tadpole. And it has a lot of water in its mouth.

To squeeze the water out again, the whale closes its jaws and pushes the water out through plates of keratin filters, which trap the food. In this way, rorqual whales can gulp and graze for hours, repeatedly slowing down then lunging through the water.

It is a unique process, and one that requires some special equipment. …

But how on Earth does a rorqual manage to coordinate this activity? On page 498, Nicholas Pyenson of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and his colleagues describe a sensory organ that they discovered in the jaws of several species that might offer an answer. More.

See also:

Whale evolution time frame too narrow for a Darwinian process …

Whale sonar equipment detects giant squid (animation)

Eric, I think we all benefit from building bridges. I'd love to see a time where evolution theorists and ID proponents work together . . . picking a research topic, a methodology, gather the data and publish a joint report. Where everyone is honest and curious and open to being disproved. Sigh. "You might say I'm a dreamer . . . . " Jerad
Jerad, thanks for your comment. We have many disagreements about the historical account, but it is helpful to step back sometimes and just appreciate it all. Thanks for your classy comment. Eric Anderson
Its indeed impossible for steps mutationism to create such a way of eating out. Yet whales, big dolphins, did adapt to the sea from the land and all these details and very instantly soon after the biblical flood. they were land creatures first. Robert Byers
Very cool. You have to admit, no matter how you think lifeforms came about, that nature is very, very cool. I think we forget sometimes, when we're debating the various issues regarding evolutionary theory and ID, that we all agree that life is pretty amazing. Whether you are in awe at the ability of natural processes to come up with the plethora of lifeforms we see now and the ones from the past or you are awed by a designer that carefully created each species as a unique combination of DNA and morphology you are still in awe. Jerad

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