April 25, 2019 | Jerry Bergman

Calling Something a Whale Doesn’t Make It a Whale

This absurdly hyped fossil is a WINO— Whale in Name Only. Dr Jerry Bergman gives it a reality check.

 On Calling a Creature Very Unlike a Whale a Whale

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Given the title of a paper in a peer reviewed scientific journal, “An Amphibious Whale from the Middle Eocene of Peru Reveals Early South Pacific Dispersal of Quadrupedal Cetaceans,” one would assume the researchers discovered a whale. Actually, it was a very non-whale creature the authors assumed was on its way to evolving into a whale! The article classifies it as a Protocetid (“first whale”),[1] and, judging solely by the drawings of the animal in the flesh, it looks very much like another extinct non-whale animal called a Pakicetidae. Also judging by the drawings of the skeleton, the skeleton looks very much like a dinosaur. Not surprisingly, whale bones were once often mistaken for dinosaur fossils.[2]

Peregocetus pacificus (“the traveling whale that reached the Pacific”) was the name given to the “whale” fossil. It is a “remarkably well-preserved” four foot long, fairly complete animal, the discoverers say. The fossil includes its jaw, front and hind legs, bits of its spine, and most of its tail.[12] The fossil was found in 2011 at a site called Playa Media Luna and is the first ostensible “whale” found in Peru. Due to possessing characteristics similar to modern otters and beavers, this mammal was apparently well-adapted to both land and water.


Solid lines indicate actual bones found. Dotted lines are inferred. Locomotory behaviors are also inferred.


Another popular article was more accurate and did not call it a whale or a Protocetidae but an “unknown species of animal.”[3] Claiming this animal was a whale is worse than claiming a dog is a cat. It is rather more like claiming a dog looks like a crocodile. The illustrations used to publicize the creature show a large doglike body and a crocodile-like head that contains the brain, head and mandible. Plus, it has a crocodile-like tail. So what is the more absurd comparison? Although shown swimming in the water, it had four legs and could navigate on land as well as any other land mammal. The problem is, “Whales look so unlike other mammals that it’s hard to imagine the type of creature that they evolved from.”[4]

Example of media hype over this fossil.

Dogs Evolved into Whales?

The reports on the Peregocetus pacificus discovery claim the “ancestors of modern whales and dolphins evolved from a small, four-limbed hoofed animal living in south Asia that looked very much like a dog.” They actually think the ancestor could well have been related to an ancient dog. In the words of LePage, “Whales started evolving in South Asia around 50 million years ago from a dog-like creature related to deer and hippos.”[5]

Genetically, the molecular evidence shows whales’ closest living relatives are the artiodactyls. These are hoofed mammals that include cows, sheep, pigs, deer, giraffes, camels, and hippos. The dog-to-whale evolution theory claims that the hoofs of the dog-like ancestor evolved into flippers. Likewise, hundreds of other body parts had to evolve into other structures to get a whale out of a dog. So many changes would have been required to go from some type of dog to a whale that it would seem better to start over. Anyone who has attempted to renovate and modernize a house built in the 1800s will understand this.

Darwinists teach that as whales “became more aquatic, these early whales began spreading along coasts.”[6] Eventually they made it to Peru where the discovery of Peregocetus pacificus was made (7 April 2019). This very unlikely scenario from-dog-to-whale evolution was selected because no other known animal has even a close possibility of being a whale ancestor. Various just-so-stories made up about whale evolution have been proposed, but all were soon rejected. Famously, Darwin thought the ancestor was a bear! He wrote, “I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths, till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale.[7] Well, he should have seen lots of difficulties. When scientists contemporary to Darwin mocked this claim—and many did—Darwin removed it from subsequent editions of his book, but privately defended it.[8] He admitted his bear-to-whale hypothesis

has been well laughed at, and disingenuously distorted by some into my saying that a bear could be converted into a whale …. As it offended persons, I struck it out in the second edition; but I still maintain that there is no especial difficulty in a bear’s mouth being enlarged to any degree useful to its changing habits—no more difficulty than man has found in increasing the crop of the pigeon, by continued selection, until it is literally as big as the whole rest of the body.”[9]

Credit: Brett Miller

Darwin’s speculation that whales evolved from bears is, ironically, not far from the modern just-so-story of whale evolution! If the earliest whale ancestor was claimed to be the ancestor of wolves, this story is still proposed by Darwinists.

Speaking of wolves, all the Darwinists can say about wolves is that they evolved “from carnivores (meat-eaters) … canids (which include wolves, dogs, and the felids [cats and their relatives]) around 20 million years ago.”[10] One could tell a just-so-story that cats and dogs have some common ancestor which was some type of carnivore. The major question is, which carnivore was it? And what animal did that carnivore evolve from? Some other animal, but which one? And which common ancestor evolved into a whale? Guesses exist, but no evidence. Yet some look to this as the best case. The “flood of new fossils has filled in the gaps in our knowledge to turn the origin of whales into one of the best-documented examples of large-scale evolutionary change in the fossil record.[11] This statement says less about whale evolution than it says about the pathetic fossil record for most other animals.

What is Peregocetus?

My guess is the creature found has nothing to do with whale evolution, but is yet another example of an extinct animal similar to those already found. The Peregocetus family fossil record shows no evidence of having evolved from something else, nor evidence that it has evolved into something else. It is part of an extinct animal kind – nothing more.

Whales were first classified as mammals only in 1693 by the famous creation-affirming naturalist John Ray, a Bible-believing Christian. Although the Pakicetus family had a few minor aquatic characteristics, most of its traits were very different from whales as is also true of the Peregocetus pacificus. Converting a land tetrapod to a fish-like mammal would demand thousands of major structural changes. As with any animal, all of its body systems are interrelated and function as a coherent unit. Evolutionary transformation into another kind of animal would require altering the complete set of complex interrelationships in entire biological systems. Both size and structural changes would be necessary for a large dog-sized tetrapod animal to evolve into a whale. Consider that a humpback whale is larger and heavier than a city bus! A few examples of the transformations required will now be summarized.


Leg changes required for a dog to evolve into a whale include the front legs becoming shorter and shorter until they are replaced by flippers. When its front legs are halfway between ordinary legs with feet and flippers, this mutated creature would be at a tremendous disadvantage, both while on land and in the water. In this stage of its claimed evolution, it could neither swim nor walk very well, or if it was able to manage some movement on land, it would at best be terribly awkward. When in the water, it could not swim with front flippers that were partly feet, and with a tail that was only a partial fluke. Why this change would occur is unexplainable, especially due to the fact its intermediate stages would severely compromise its ability to hunt and live.


The body size changes required to evolve from the small terrestrial mammal proposed by evolutionists as the precursor of whales to a marine whale are enormous—from a less than 50-pound dog-sized terrestrial animal to up to a 150-ton sea animal, and from a few feet long to up to a 100-foot-long animal. The tongue of a blue whale alone weighs as much as an elephant. These changes require not only size modifications, but major design changes in every body organ, structure, and system.

Illustration courtesy Illustra Media.


The body must also be streamlined to flow in the water like a shark, animals they closely resemble in shape but not in size. Many whales can travel at enormous speeds in spite of their enormous body size. The speed record is held by the killer whale, which can travel as fast as 34 mph (55 kilometers per hour), faster than any other sea mammal. To achieve this speed, they possess huge muscle blocks that carry some whales as far as from Alaska to Mexico to mate and back to Alaska. This trip involves more than 12,000 miles (20,000 km).[13]


Reproduction is another major problem. Do females at this stage of evolution from land to water have their offspring on the land or in the water? If she had her calves in the water, how does she keep them from drowning? And how does she nurse them until she evolved all the complex systems required to nurse under water? The idea that a hairy, four-legged mammal gradually changed into a whale during millions of years is irrational. Illustra Media’s film Living Waters also discusses the insuperable difficulties of evolving the male’s reproductive organs from outside to inside the body.

Skeleton, Diet and Respiration

One study of Pakicetus’s anklebones determined it did have many similarities to artiodactyls, not whales.[14] Moreover, the teeth of the Pakicetus wolf-sized land animal “closely resemble those of land-dwelling mesonychids—so closely that paleontologists . . . had always regarded such teeth as belonging to mesonychids until they found the jaws those teeth came from.”[15] Then they had to revise their theory. In contrast to the whale diet of fish, the teeth of Pakicetus were probably used to feed on carrion, mollusks, or tough vegetable matter. Pakicetidae nostrils were also located in a very different place than where a modern whale blowhole is located, Rather they were in the same place as a dog’s nostrils.[16]


As is obvious from this brief review, the problem of dog to whale evolution is beyond enormous. It is scientifically untenable, as I document in my new book on whale evolution which I hope will go to press this year.

[1] Lambert, Olivier, et al., 2019. “An Amphibious Whale from the Middle Eocene of Peru Reveals Early South Pacific Dispersal of Quadrupedal Cetaceans.” Current Biology 29:1–8 April 22, Elsevier Ltd. p. 1.

[2] Black, Riley. 2010. “How Did Whales Evolve?” Smithsonian Magazine, December 1st.

[3] Dvorsky, George. 2019. Unknown Species of Ancient Four-Legged Whale Uncovered in Peru. Gizmodo.

[4] Yong, Ed. 2010. “Whales evolved from small aquatic hoofed ancestors.” Discover Magazine.

[5] Le Page, Michael. 2019. “Amazing four-legged fossil shows how walking whales learned to swim.” New Scientist.

[6] LePage 2019.

[7] Darwin, Charles. 1859. The Origin of Species. John Murray, London, p. 184.

[8] Darwin, Francis and N. C. Seward (Editors). 1903. More Letters of Charles Darwin. London: John Murray.

[9] Darwin, Francis and N. C. Seward (editors), 1903, Letter 1860.

[10] Resnick, 1999, p. 6,

[11] Black, 2010.

[12] Dvorsky, 2009.

[13] Papastavrou, Vassili. 2004. Eyewitness Whale. New York: DK Publishing.

[14] Thewissen, J.G.M. Hans, E.M. Williams, L.J. Roe and S.T. Hussain. 2001. “Skeletons of Terrestrial Cetaceans and the Relationship of Whales to Artiodactyls.” Nature, 413:277-281.

[15]Parsons, Keith.  2004.  The Great Dinosaur Controversy: A Guide to the Debates. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA., p. 160.

[16] Gingerich, P.D. 2003.  “Land-To-Sea Transition in Early Whales: Evolution of Eocene Archaeoceti (Cetacea) in Relation to Skeletal Proportions and Locomotion of Living Semiaquatic Mammals.”  Paleobiology, 29(3):429-454, Summer.

Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology at several colleges and universities including for over 40 years at Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored, are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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