Latest “Walking Whale” Fails
Another putative whale ancestor adds to the past pile of failures.
Eleven bone fragments have birthed another whale of a tale.
by Jerry Bergman, PhD
I have authored both a paper and an entire book on the failure of the claims that some dog or deer-like quadrupedal animal evolved into a whale. The new find, Phiomicetus anubis, will be another chapter. My conclusion is the dog/deer-to-whale evolution is, at best, poorly documented. Conclusions about whale evolution are openly driven by belief, not evidence, and the latest example is no exception.
Charles Darwin was one of the first persons to propose that the whale evolved from a quadrupedal animal, he thought from a bear. He wrote that “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.” When Darwin’s contemporary’s mocked his claim (and many did), Darwin removed this claim from subsequent editions of his book, but privately he defended it. He wrote the bear claim was
necessarily conjectural, & may be all false; but they were the best I could give. The Bear case 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.”
Of course, enormous differences exist from changes in pigeons’ crops compared to bears evolving into whales. Nonetheless, Darwin birthed an idea that, although its details have been modified by evolutionists today, the basic idea has remained the same. Darwin, and most other early evolutionists, had very little insight into the enormous problems in changing small terrestrial animals into enormously gigantic marine animals, such as a whale.
The difference between the largest mammal alive on earth today, whales, and small quadrupedal mammals has been well-documented but ignored. Specifically, the Antarctic blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is the largest animal on the planet, up to 98 feet long, and weighing up to 400,000 pounds, which is close to the weight of 33 elephants. As whales are mammals, evolutionists (as was true of Darwin) have no better explanation of whale evolution than that it evolved from another mammal. Evolution from a dog is the least untenable compared to all other choices.
The discovery of Phiomicetus was made 13 years ago, and after 13 years of research the results were finally published this year. The fossil of Phiomicetus consists of eleven bone and teeth fragments, four of which are about the size of the smallest human finger, the largest about the size of a human femur (see photo below). The eleven fragments were described as parts of a jaw, a cranium, a mandible, cervical and thoracic vertebrae, and rib fragments plus a few teeth. As Casey Luskin correctly noted “if you check the technical paper you’ll learn that they found very little of the fossil at all.”
The animal was described as a “herbivorous, deer-like terrestrial mammal” which it likely is, not a whale or anything close. Nonetheless, they concluded it was “a 43 million-year-old fossil in the Sahara Desert in Egypt of a now-extinct amphibious four-legged whale. That’s right, folks — a whale with legs.” No evidence of legs was found! Given the bone in the bottom of the illustration, the logical conclusion is that—whatever it was—it had “powerful jaws … capable of tearing a wide range of prey.” Along with this animal that the finders claim should have evolved into a whale during the next few million years was found parts of a modern shark cartilaginous skeleton which has not changed in millions of years (see quote below). The bite marks on the whale’s bones “suggest it was once bitten severely by sharks… the marks indicate that the sharks were small, and likely not large enough to kill the whale; rather, these sharks were likely scavenging its carcass.” Whales, it is claimed, evolved from quadrupeds in the past 100 million years but, although sharks are older than dinosaurs, they have
stood the test of time and are almost exactly the same as they were all those millions of years ago…. Sharks clearly had an evolutionary edge when they came onto the scene about 400 million years ago… dinosaurs perished, but there were some species that survived and thrived! Two of the major ones that I’ve discussed are crocodiles and sharks.
Modern sharks, for some unexplained reason, are about half the size of ancient sharks. That sounds like devolution, not evolution.
The Gohar et al. paper on Phiomicetus begins with the a priori assumption claiming that “Over about 10 million years, the ancestors of whales transformed from herbivorous, deer-like, terrestrial mammals into carnivorous and fully aquatic cetaceans.” They never bothered to explore any other possibility. The authors admitted, however, that the major problem with Phiomicetus as an evolutionary link is the new fossil was in the same strata as other putative cetacean missing links: “Recovery of Phiomicetus from the same bed that yielded the remingtonocetid Rayanistes afer provides the first clear evidence for the co-occurrence of the basal cetacean families Remingtonocetidae and Protocetidae in Africa.” At Live Science, Laura Geggel writes that
P. anubis wasn’t the only fossil whale from the middle Eocene of Egypt. Its fossils came from the same area as a previously discovered Rayanistes afer, an early aquatic whale. This finding suggests that the two early whales lived in the same time and place, but likely occupied different niches.
The Phiomicetus “walking whale” fossil does not include legs. It only contains the bones highlighted in red in the hypothetical animal, shown in the following illustration:
Note that almost all of the bones found are head or jaw bones. Also, note that the creature drawn was based on the assumption that it was on its way to evolving into a whale. This explains the long whale-like tail on the illustration of which no fossil evidence exists. The creature looks like a quadrupedal animal but, given the bones found, a very different creature could be drawn lacking a long tail. The authors also admit that Phiomicetus differs from all known protocetids, indicating it was not a protocetid. A protocetid is an extinct cetacean, an animal with an aquatic lifestyle, a long streamlined body-shape, often of large size and a carnivorous diet.
Also note the attempt (in Figure 2) to show a smooth progression from a dog-like animal to a whale more accurately shows not a progression but a series of very different animals.
The detailed discussion of the Phiomicetus provided by the authors helps us understand many of its traits, but is more harmful than helpful to document whale evolution from a dog-like creature.
In spite of providing no evidence that it was a whale, or even a proto-whale, Phiomicetus was constantly called a whale as if irrefutable evidence was presented to scientifically prove the case for a whale. Some examples, all from Shivaram, include the following:
“This whale was a god of death to most of the animals that lived in its area.”
“The new whale is called Phiomicetus anubis, which the scientists named in part after Anubis, the canine-headed Egyptian god.”
“Whales, it turns out, used to be “herbivorous, deer-like terrestrial mammals” the scientists concluded based in the 11 bone fragments found… Over the span of about 10 million years, whales turned into carnivorous creatures in the ocean. The discovery of the four-legged creature is part of that evolution.”
Other examples from Geggel include:
“The walking whale ancestor named after Egyptian god of death.”
“The semiaquatic whale walked on land and swam in water.”
“the whale’s skull bears a resemblance to the skull of the jackal-headed Anubis… “It was a successful, active predator… death for most animals that lived alongside it.”
“The expedition was led by study co-researcher Mohamed Sameh Antar, a vertebrate paleontologist with the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, making this the first time that an Arab team has discovered, scientifically described and named a new species of fossil whale…. the 1,300-pound (600 kilogram) P. anubis is the earliest (or most “primitive”) whale in Africa from a group of semiaquatic whales known as the protocetids.”
Davies provides yet another example of drawing conclusions based on the eleven bone [and teeth] fragments that has, the authors add, revolutionized whale evolution.
“Whales, it turns out, used to be “herbivorous, deer-like terrestrial mammals… Over the span of about 10 million years, whales turned into carnivorous creatures in the ocean. The discovery of the four-legged creature is part of that evolution.”
Lastly, from Yirka are the following two examples:
“the fossil represents a new species of whale”
“the whale also represents an example of an ancient land creature returning to the sea—one still in the beginning stages of transitioning to a marine animal without legs.”
Darwin was correct when he stated that whale evolution from a quadruped mammal is “necessarily conjectural, & may be all false; but they [bears] were the best I could give” to solve the problem of the evolution of whales. The new discovery of Phiomicetus supports Darwin’s concerns, as does every other claimed evolutionary ancestor. While the ginkgo tree, Darwinists claim, has been around for 300 million Darwin years and is, as far as we can tell, identical to the modern ginkgo (see my article from 31 Aug 2021), these same scientists claim it took whales only 10 million years to evolve from some dog or deer-like animal into a whale. Phiomicetus was likely an extinct land-dwelling quadruped. No evidence exists that this ancient animal evolved into a whale or anything else. The dates given (200 and 300 million years old) are, at best, guesses based on assumptions.
 Bergman, Jerry, 2012, “Whale evolution: A whale of a tale,” CRSQ 49(2):122-134, Fall; Bergman, Jerry, 2021, A Whale of a Tail: The Story of the Largest Wonder that Ever Walked on Earth, 64 pages. [Publisher, etc.?]
 Darwin, Charles. 1859. The Origin of Species. John Murray, London, England, p. 184.
 Darwin, Francis, and N.C. Seward (editors), 1903, More Letters of Charles Darwin. John Murray, London, England.. Letter to William Henry Harvey dated September 4, 1860. Also in Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 2922,” accessed on 2 September 2021, https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-2922.xml.
 Darwin, and Seward (editors), 1903, Letter 1860.
 Yirka, Bob, 2021, Analysis of new species of ancient four-legged whale published, PhysOrg, https://phys.org/news/2021-09-analysis-species-ancient-four-legged-whale.html, September 1.
 Luskin, Casey, 2021, Evolutionary imagination and belief drive false claims of a “four-legged whale,” Evolution News & Science Today, https://evolutionnews.org/2021/09/evolutionary-imagination-and-belief-drive-false-claims-of-a-four-legged-whale/, September 1.
 Shivaram, Deepa, 2021, Scientists discover fossil of a 4-legged whale with a raptor-like eating style, NPR, https://www.npr.org/2021/08/27/1031659020/four-legged-whale-legs-discovered-43-million-years, August 27.
 Shivaram, 2021.
 Rank, Jeffrey, 2021, Why haven’t sharks evolved? https://www.dinosaurreport.com/why-havent-sharks-evolved/
 Gohar, Abdullah, et al., 2021, A new protocetid whale offers clues to biogeography and feeding ecology in early cetacean evolution, Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology 288: 20211368, https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2021.1368
 Gohar, et al., 2021, p. 1.
 Geggel, Laura, 2021, Walking whale ancestor named after Egyptian god of death, https://www.livescience.com/ancient-whale-god-of-death.html
 Shivaram, 2021
 Geggel, 2021. Italics added.
 Davies, Dave, 2021, Scientists are ‘spying on whales’ to learn how they eat, talk and … walked, https://www.npr.org/2018/08/01/634456181/scientists-are-spying-on-whales-to-learn-how-they-eat-talk-and-walked
 Yirka, 2021.
Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including 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.