Tetrapod Zoology

The second episode of Inside Nature’s Giants (read part I first) looked at whale anatomy: this time round, the autopsy was carried out on a Fin whale Balaenoptera physalus that had died off the coast of County Cork, southern Ireland.

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Whereas the other dissections all took place in the RVC, this one was carried out in place on a beach, meaning that the weather, tides and light all intervened and spread the dissection out over two days (hence the rain spots on the image above; © Channel 4). The whole event was led by Joy Reidenberg, and toward the end of the episode she was literally standing thigh-deep in whale gloop, or slithering around on her belly while clambering around among viscera. Nice. Heavy machinery was involved: JCBs and all that. Bloating due to the build-up of gases meant that the whale was ready to burst, and that any over-enthusiatic incising would result in a humongous explosion of whale guts (they showed some video footage – taken in Denmark – where this is exactly what happened. A still from that footage is shown below). So Reidenberg carefully made numerous small incisions along the throat pleats; the gas rushed out with a loud whistling sound, as planned.

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After cutting open (and successfully deflating) the pleated ventral skin on the belly and throat, Reidenberg extracted the larynx and hyoid, while teams used heavy machinery to peel away the skin (as shown at the top of the article; image © Channel 4), and to remove the guts and other abdominal tissue.

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As you’ll know if you’ve ever looked at a whale skeleton from underneath, many whales have enormous hyoid bones (I’m referring to the basihyoid and thyrohyoids). I always thought this was all to do with the tongue and throat musculature, and it probably is in some species: sperm whales and beaked whales employ suction feeding, so need powerful throat musculature (Heyning & James 1996), and the rorqual tongue, used in manipulating prey, requires the support of large, robust hyoids (Werth 2007). However, in 2006, Reidenberg proposed that the hyoids might play a key role in pulling the head ventrally (as shown in the adjacent CG still; image © Channel 4), and hence in setting up the dorsoventral ‘body wave’ employed during swimming. This was discussed in the programme, and they used CG to show how it might work. So far as I can tell, this hasn’t yet been published (please tell me if you know otherwise). Reidenberg also explained how the expandable laryngeal sac allows rorquals like the Fin whale to make low-frequency noises (incidentally, the laryngeal sac of the Pygmy right whale Caperea marginata is asymmetrical, and I believe that humpbacks do some freaky stuff with their throat when bubble-netting). After removing the larynx she was able to manipulate the corniculate flaps – a pair of pliable lip-like, anterior structures located close to the epiglottis – and make the suggestion that they might be used in making pulsing infrasonic noises. I’d love to talk more about this sort of thing: for the relevant literature see Reidenberg & Laitman (2004, 2007, 2009).

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Moving away from the throat and to the rest of the body, Reidenberg tried to get the heart out, but couldn’t reach far enough into the chest to get it. The team also worked hard to retrieve – successfully – one of the vestigial hindlimbs. If you know anything about whales, you’ll know all about the vestigial pelvic girdles and hindlimbs present in various members of the group. However, I suppose the presence of hindlimbs and pelvic girdles in modern whales is not well known to the public at large, and I even recall seeing scepticism about their presence being expressed by some (as if they’re rare or based on apocryphal accounts). So, if you’re going to talk about the terrestrial origins of cetaceans – and this is exactly what they did in Inside Nature’s Giants – it would be wrong not to get that vestigial pelvis or hindlimb out [adjacent hindlimb pelvis pic © Channel 4].

All in all, outstanding. Coming next: the crocodile episode!

For previous Tet Zoo articles on cetacean anatomy see…

Wow, that’s quite a lot.

Refs – -

Heyning, J. E. & Mead, J. G. 1996. Suction feeding in beaked whales: morphological and observational evidence. Contributions in Science, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County 464, 1-12.

Reidenberg, J. S. & Laitman, J. T. 2004. Anatomy of infrasonic communication in baleen whales: divergent mechanisms of sound generation in mysticetes and odontocetes. Acoustical Society of America Journal 115, 2556-2556.

- . & Laitman, J. T. 2007. Discovery of a low frequency sound source in Mysticeti (baleen whales): anatomical establishment of a new vocal fold homolog. Anatomical Record 290, 745-759.

- . & Laitman, J. T. 2009. Sisters of the sinuses: cetacean air sacs. The Anatomical Record 291, 1389-1396.

Werth, A. J. 2007. Adaptations of the cetacean hyolingual apparatus for aquatic feeding and thermoregulation. The Anatomical Record: Advances in Integrative Anatomy and Evolutionary Biology 290, 546-568.

Comments

  1. #1 David Marjanović
    July 28, 2009

    Is that the femur?

  2. #2 Keith Schengili-Roberts
    July 28, 2009

    Just wanted to say “thanks” for pointing out this series on your site a week or so ago. I would never have known to look out for this series otherwise. Fascinating viewing.

  3. #3 Robert
    July 28, 2009

    I have heard that a few individual Whales even have small external back legs – a genetic throwback to their distant past. Is this so?

  4. #4 Noadi
    July 28, 2009

    That is true. Here’s a news article from a few years ago about a dolphin with hind limbs being caught in Japan http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15581204/

  5. #5 jcddvm
    July 28, 2009

    Thanks for posting this. FYI, autopsies are performed on humans, but necropsies are performed on everything else.

  6. #6 Mark Lees
    July 28, 2009

    Just noticed you refer to them letting the gas out of the body, but left out the wonderful phrase they used to describe the sound: a “whale fart symphony”!

    David asks if the bone is a femur, the commentator referred to it as a ‘thigh bone’ (which I would usually take to mean femur), but the comment made by Reidenberg seemed a bit more ambiguous (she had previously also corrected him on his identification of part of the tongue). I thought it looked more like pictures I have seen of the pelvic bone of baleen whales (which is not articulated to the spinal column). I had previously read that whereas the pelvic bone is almost always present, other bones are much less common and when present usually very different in shape and very much reduced. If anyone could clear up exactly what the bone was I would be very interested.

  7. #7 G. Tingey
    July 28, 2009
  8. #8 Erich Fitzgerald
    July 28, 2009

    The pelvic girdle element appears to be the innominate, not the femur.

  9. #9 DDeden
    July 28, 2009

    If anyone is interested in why sub-aquatic dwarf frogs, most monkeys, moose, humans, gibbons and dolphins all lack laryngeal air sacs while most frogs, reindeer, great apes, siamangs and rorquals possess laryngeal air sacs, this is what I’ve come up with so far: It isn’t because of vocalization, which occurs with or without the air sac, but for (ancestral) favored feeding position/method on hydrostatic/surface foods, not benthic foods. I think Riedenberg is correct on the hyoid propulsion regarding feeding. I didn’t see any of the programs (no TV). I don’t know why the pygmy right whale laryngeal air sac is so asymmetrical. Wonderful posts, great subject matter. Wondering if dinosaurs had laryngeal air sacs and/or unusual sonar capabilities too…

  10. #10 joy Reidenberg
    August 8, 2009

    The “hind limb bone” we found is actually a remnant pelvis. Innominate is the term used to describe the fusion of three bones: ilium, ischium, and pubis. Sometimes, a remnant of the femur (thigh bone) is also fused to this structure. We were looking it over to determine if that was the case, but it appears as though it was only the pelvic remnant without the femur after all. Sorry for the confusion!

    Regarding the laryngeal air sacs: Humans actually have remnant sacs – we call them laryngeal ventricles. Dolphins also have laryngeal air sacs – but they are very small and ventrally located within the cartilages of the larynx where the epiglottis meets the thyroid cartilage, on either side of the midline vocal fold. The rorquals aren’t the only baleen whales with a laryngeal sac (note it is one sac in the midline). I have also seen it in right whales and I know it was published that bowhead whales also have one (Henry, Henk, & Haldiman article, I think). In the one pygmy right whale I’ve dissected, the sac starts in the midline (unlike what is indicated in the Reeb & Best article) and deviates slightly to one side. I’m not sure why either. Any ideas?

  11. #11 DDeden
    August 10, 2009

    @ 10 – Thanks Joy, sorry for misspelling your surname, and for omitting “enlarged inflatable” laryngeal air sacs in apes etc.

    Yes, humans can develop laryngocoeles pathologically, indicating past enlarged air sacs like other hominoids (and A. afarensis Lucy & Selam), apparently from ancestral feeding on hydrostatic floating vegetation like today’s Congo gorillas sit-float-feeding in Ndoki wetlands, and a convergent parallel to ancestral frogs sit-float-feeding on hydrostatic lily pads tongue-zapping flying insects, convergently resulting in complete tail loss in both apes and frogs.

    Lung-breathing vocal-clicking pelagic-benthivores probably all retain small vestiges of ancestral enlarged inflatable throat/air sacs (used in circular breathing and croaks/hoots/whalesong), including sub-aquatic dwarf frogs, dolphins, sperm whales and humans.

    I hadn’t known that right whales possessed a laryngeal air sac, though being a surface feeder, I expected it, so thanks much for the confirmation.

  12. #12 David Marjanović
    August 10, 2009

    ancestral frogs sit-float-feeding on hydrostatic lily pads

    Nope, frogs are older than flowering plants.

    ancestral frogs sit-float-feeding on hydrostatic lily pads

    Nope, a tail is simply not needed for our style of climbing. Check out lorises such as Loris, Nycticebus and Arctocebus.

  13. #13 DDeden
    August 11, 2009

    @ 12 – DM, please see the link.
    http://www.eskeletons.org/taxaSelect.cfm?table=Nycticebus&taxonN=Slow+Loris
    In the lorises, there is a short tail, not a fused coccyx, if the photo is right. In frogs and hominoids alone, amongst all tetrapods, there is a complete loss and internalized fusion of caudal vertebrae AFAICT. Tail shortening frequently occurs in relatively slow climbers, but only in semi-submersed hydrostatic feeders does it completely disappear.

    Water lilies are not typical flowering plants: “diploid water lily endosperm may represent an intermediate form between haploid gymnosperms and triploid angiosperms”. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/01/020131074924.htm

    Greatly simplified evolutionarily and ontologically: insect larvae attach to lily stems, climb to pad, hop/fly to other pads, flying insect adults pollinated lily flowers, tadpoles fed on insect larvae, frog adults zapped insect pollinators.

    Perhaps before lily pads, there were other plants with floating platforms, in/on which frogs could have predated on flying insects. Whatever it was, frogs benefitted from sitting perfectly still partly in/on water, and camouflaged, using only the gradually lengthening tongue to feed and the throat air sac to nasal breathe/croak/float. The tongue-less frogs later readopted sub-aquatic foraging and lost the long tongue and throat sac. Parallel convergence in breathing-calling-buoyancy in frogs, hominoids, right whales.

  14. #14 David Marjanović
    August 12, 2009

    In the lorises, there is a short tail, not a fused coccyx, if the photo is right.

    In some, there is a short tail. In others, AFAIK, it’s completely absent.

    And why does it get reduced at all in lorises?

    only in semi-submersed hydrostatic feeders does it completely disappear.

    Why do you make such an absolute statement based on a sample size of one?

    Water lilies are not typical flowering plants:

    They are indeed very basal flowering plants, and they did indeed appear in the early or middle Early Cretaceous. But not in the Early Triassic, when the earliest known frogs lived, nor in the Early Jurassic, when the earliest known completely tailless frogs lived (note that Middle and Late Triassic frogs are entirely unknown).

    As I said: you have a fossil record to argue against.

    Perhaps before lily pads, there were other plants with floating platforms

    Well… no, there weren’t.

  15. #15 DDeden
    August 12, 2009

    @ 14 – DM, do you have any evidence of a typical non-tailed condition in lorises? AFAIK all lorises have typical tail vertebrae. The relevant question to ask of lorises is not why do they have a reduced tail length (so do mountain macaques), but why did such an endurant taxa not fuse the tail internally like the frogs and hominoid. The reason, of course, is that lorises, like chameleons, do not feed hydrostatically semi-submersed, as frogs and hominoids did (and many still do). Sample size? I’m saying all extant frogs/toads and all extant hominoids are derived from semi-submersed hydrostatic feeders, and this hasn’t occurred in other known tetrapods. This is NOT a frog, but a short tailed early variant of salamander, AFAICT: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/05/080521-frog-fossil_2.html
    Its comparable to the difference between a short tailed macaque being distinguished from a gibbon. Please provide other very early “frog” taxa.

  16. #16 DDeden
    August 12, 2009

    The first seed plant & first true frog were in NE China ponds 125ma
    http://cas.bellarmine.edu/tietjen/images/in_search_of_the_first_flower.htm
    Archaefructus may/not be basal within angiosperms, rather it may be close to the Nymphaeales (eg. water lily) or the basal eudicots (eg. lotus).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanyanlichan
    “Sanyanlichan” is the name given to a fossil that represents the earliest known “modern” frog.

    I think they there was a symbiotic relationship, the ‘self-warming scented flower’ (due to being in cool water, thus requiring thermoinsulated seed coat) plant attracted flying insects (with pheromone-like scent and UV color) which pollinated the flowers but also deposited eggs of hungry larva, frogs hastened the departure of the insects and ate eggs preventing herbivorous insects from eating the plant. This in turn produced larger surface-floating leaves and a completely tail-less frog with long tongue.

    I’d appreciate anyones’ comments on this!

  17. #17 Hai~Ren
    August 12, 2009

    Please provide other very early “frog” taxa.

    Triadobatrachus, Early Triassic
    Prosalirus, Early Jurassic
    Vieraella, Early Jurassic
    Notobatrachus, Middle Jurassic

  18. #18 DDeden
    August 13, 2009

    @ 16 – thanks HR, I sent another note but I think its in Darrens’ spam filter, so I’ll include non-links here: The earliest true frog, Sanyanlichan, and the earliest flowering seed plant, an aquatic herb, Archaefructus, were both found in 125ma fossil beds in NE China. /tietjen/images/in_search_of_the_first_flower.htm
    Archaefructus may/not be basal within angiosperms, rather it may be close to the Nymphaeales (eg. water lily) or the basal eudicots (eg. lotus). wiki/Sanyanlichan
    “Sanyanlichan” is the name given to a fossil that represents the earliest known “modern” frog.

    I think there was a symbiotic relationship, the Archaefructus attracted (via night UV and day visible color and homeothermic pseudo-pheromone scent) flying insects which pollinated the flowers but which also deposited eggs of hungry larva, frogs hastened the departure/death of lingering insects preventing herbivorous insects from eating the leaves (tongue was not yet so long). This in turn produced larger leaves with less competition, which then allowed an ideal frog ambush, coccyx fusion, long tongue zapping, improved evasive pad hop/frog kicking, better camouflage, larger vocal sac but no scent (that would compete with the floral scent wafting around the pond). wiki/Nymphaea_nouchali
    I view this interaction as similar to early tail-less hominoids eating papyrus/lily/lotus rhyzomes/seeds/etc., but with the caveat that due to consumption of (stagnanct freshwater) parasitic trematode flukes which attach to herbs, hominoids benefitted by eating sweet-sour fruits high in vit. C (ascorbic acid) which harmed flukes, (I think) so, the loss of self-made vit C was a sum benefit, since fruit trees were always available near wetlands. (I wonder if guinea pigs have a similar cycle.) Also, possible slight selection for adding saltwater and later cooking to soften fibers and kill flukes, would have given great benefits later on. [Maybe too much story telling, sorry, but fits a path of parallel convergence of coccyx fusion (semi-submersed hydrostatic feeding), rare but expected in apes and frogs.]

  19. #19 DDeden
    August 13, 2009

    I think this is why reptiles, other primates, sloths, bats and birds retain (and regrow) segmented caudal vertebrae (even after spined feathers), no static wet feeding habit. Ducks and wading birds keep their rears above water, penguins don’t sit in water and usually stand on ice. Seals and walruses need a tail rudder, humans and frogs don’t.

  20. #20 Dr Jack
    August 13, 2009

    DDeden: I am dismayed by your continuing invention of elaborate hypotheses that run contrary to most of the data we have. Science is about looking at evidence, and then formulating hypotheses on that data. YOU ARE NOT DOING THIS. To be frank, the frog-plant symbiosis idea you have outlined above is sheer, utter, unparsimonious nonsense. Yes, NONSENSE. I say this because we have a lot of information on stem-salientians and basal frogs, and on early angiosperms and on other fossil plants, that you seem totally unaware of. Similar negative comments can be made about the proposals you have made regarding primate evolution, pig evolution and most other stuff. STOP IT. LEARN TO LOOK AT EVIDENCE >>>>>BEFORE<<<<< FORMULATING YOUR HYPOTHESES.

    Sorry for the rant. I have been reading these messages for a long time here at Tetrapod Zoology. Like most readers I find them frustrating nonsense but I have not bothered to say anything critical as it seems too much trouble. I do expect that most other readers share this view.

  21. #21 Dr Jack
    August 13, 2009

    End of first paragraph should say BEFORE FORMULATING YOUR HYPOTHESES.

  22. #22 David Marjanović
    August 13, 2009

    DM, do you have any evidence of a typical non-tailed condition in lorises? AFAIK all lorises have typical tail vertebrae. The relevant question to ask of lorises is not why do they have a reduced tail length (so do mountain macaques), but why did such an endurant taxa not fuse the tail internally like the frogs and hominoid.

    Because they reduced their tails recently enough? Because they still use them for something (I’m speculating here, but rabbits and hippos also use their very short tails)?

    Sample size? I’m saying all extant frogs/toads and all extant hominoids are derived from semi-submersed hydrostatic feeders, and this hasn’t occurred in other known tetrapods.

    This is a sample size of one. The clade Salientia reduced its tail once, at its origin, so all several thousand species of extant frogs-including-toads are one case of tail reduction. Whether we hominoids are “derived from semi-submersed hydrostatic feeders” is your conclusion — you must not use it as a premise, for crying out loud! So, 1 + 0 gives 1.

    Fun fact: we don’t have the slightest idea on the lifestyle of Triadobatrachus. We have no idea how aquatic or terrestrial it was. OK, with its short legs it can’t have been a strong swimmer (or jumper), but that’s it.

    This is NOT a frog, but a short tailed early variant of salamander, AFAICT:

    See, this is what you get for not reading the primary literature. News stories like this are a level or two below Tet Zoo.

    Gerobatrachus is an Early Permian temnospondyl. The paper that described it (Anderson et al. 2008) contains a phylogenetic analysis which finds Eocaecilia (the only included caecilian) inside the “microsaurian” lepospondyls, but the frog-salamander clade (Batrachia) inside the temnospondyls, right next to Gerobatrachus. If we believe this paper, then, Gerobatrachus is the closest known relative of frogs and salamanders together; it is neither a frog nor a salamander.

    However, the data matrix in that paper contains so many mistakes that correcting them leads to a monophyletic Lissamphibia being found far away from Gerobatrachus and next to the lysorophian “lepospondyl” Brachydectes (Marjanović & Laurin 2009). Similarly, adding Gerobatrachus to another previously published matrix doesn’t change anything either (Marjanović & Laurin 2008b). In other words, not only is Gerobatrachus indeed neither a frog nor a salamander, it’s very far away from both.

    If you’ll send me your e-mail address (strangely, I can’t even find your Blogspot profile on your blog), I’ll send you these three papers.

    Please provide other very early “frog” taxa.

    See comment 16, plus Czatkobatrachus (Early Triassic, very fragmentary) and Eodiscoglossus oxoniensis (Middle Jurassic, very fragmentary, and may not be Eodiscoglossus).

    The earliest true frog, Sanyanlichan

    Nonsense.

    If by “true frog” your source means “salientian”, then Triadobatrachus and Czatkobatrachus compete for that title. But that probably wasn’t meant, because Salientia is “frogs” in the widest sense.

    If it means “salientian capable of jumping”, then we end up with Prosalirus.

    If it means “anuran”, that is “crown-group salientian”, and if Eodiscoglossus oxoniensis really belongs to Eodiscoglossus, then that’s the oldest one. It’s a bit older than Notobatrachus. If it’s something else, then it probably doesn’t belong to Anura; in that case, the oldest known anuran is Rhadinosteus from the Morrison Formation (Late Jurassic), some 25 million years older than the Yixian Formation. Rhadinosteus is a rhinophrynid, in other words, more closely related to the Mexican burrowing “toad” than any extant frog/toad is; Eodiscoglossus (at least the type species, E. santonjae from the beginning of the Cretaceous) is a discoglossoid and thus more closely related to the discoglossids and bombinatorids (fire-bellied “toads” for example) than any extant anuran is.

    If it means “ranid”, it’s just simply wrong, because none of the Yixian Fm frogs has turned out to be a ranid, even though I think one of them was originally described as such (…isn’t there a Liaobatrachus sanyanensis? But that fragmentary animal was, again without basis, described as a pelobatid, right?). The oldest ranid sensu lato is the unnamed fragment from Grisolles in France, which dates from near the end of the Eocene.

    “Sanyanlichan” is not a scientific name, BTW.

    the earliest flowering seed plant, an aquatic herb, Archaefructus

    There are older flowering plants (from earlier in the Early Cretaceous), but those are poorly known. Archaefructus has very, very, small leaves and was entirely submerged except for its flowers and fruits.

    I think there was a symbiotic relationship, the Archaefructus attracted (via night UV and day visible color and homeothermic pseudo-pheromone scent) flying insects which pollinated the flowers but which also deposited eggs of hungry larva, frogs hastened the departure/death of lingering insects preventing herbivorous insects from eating the leaves (tongue was not yet so long).

    Entirely possible, but a completely unsupported and thus completely useless speculation.

    This in turn produced larger leaves with less competition, which then allowed an ideal frog ambush, coccyx fusion, long tongue zapping, improved evasive pad hop/frog kicking

    No, because frogs with great jumping ability date 70 million years further back (Prosalirus). Even the crown-group Anura, which is a subset of the jumping clade, dates further back (see above).

    Jumping frogs are much older than flowering plants, so the latter cannot explain the former.

    vit. C (ascorbic acid) which harmed flukes, (I think)

    Evidence, please.

    Oh, and, seals don’t need a tail rudder. In fact, if anything, the tail would get in the way if it were long enough to reach the feet. Have you seen a seal swim? They use their feet like a vertical tail fin. Amazing to watch on TV.

  23. #23 David Marjanović
    August 13, 2009

    I say this because we have a lot of information on stem-salientians and basal frogs, and on early angiosperms and on other fossil plants, that you seem totally unaware of.

    Thanks for reminding me, I forgot to add: DDeden, if there’s a university library near you, go there, walk in, and start reading and making photocopies. You regularly talk about topics where you have no idea how much is known about them. You don’t know how much knowledge already exists.

    This has to stop. It benefits neither you nor anyone else if you keep making arguments that are based on a lack of knowledge.

  24. #24 David Marjanović
    August 13, 2009

    The TOL Salientia page says: “Even the most basal living frogs have the beginnings of a unique mechanism of tongue projection (Nishikawa and Cannatella, 1991; Nishikawa and Roth, 1991) that is associated with extreme modification of the gill arches into a fused hyobranchial plate.”

    This means that the specialized tongue apparatus is at least as old as the crown-group, which is probably of Middle Jurassic age. So, angiosperms cannot explain tongue-zapping either.

    Prosalirus already has the urostyle, even though Triadobatrachus lacks it (it has a short series of separate tail vertebrae, though they probably didn’t stick out beyond the ischia).

  25. #25 Hai~Ren
    August 13, 2009

    For what it’s worth, among the lorisids, Perodicticus has the most well-developed tail, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem to have any real function. In Nycticebus, Loris and Arctocebus, the tail is vestigial or pretty much absent. The following link shows drawings of loris and their near-negligible tails.

    http://www.loris-conservation.org/database/identification_key/Genus_key.html

    Lorisids are closely related to the galagos and bushbabies, which have long well-developed tails…

  26. #26 DDeden
    August 14, 2009

    @ 19-23 Is this a sample size of one? |STOP IT.| |This has to stop.|

    “Prosalirus already has the urostyle” YES, NOT a fused coccyx. Frogs have a fused coccyx (right or wrong?), as do all hominoids, because a fused coccyx was specifically selected for (NOT leaping, see kangaroos, sifakas, indris, hopping birds, and obviously not slow climbing, see lorisiids.). Small leaves of Archaefructus for small frogs, big leaves for big frogs. Proto-frogs may have started with salamander-like mouths and only short tongues, and lenghtened it with time, but greatly lengthened the tongue when they established hydrostatic feeding on flyers. I’m not saying Sanyanlichan began this method, rather it was the result of it, and because it was so effective the symbiotic relationship strengthened, with alternative speciation on different similar plants in other niches. My point was that a tree salamander and tree frog split on an early lily pad (or parallel), NOT on a rainforest tree branch nor on the forest floor, nor underwater. Much of the data supports this AFAICT. Seals, sea otters, sea lions do use their tails as rudders (or trim tabs) AFAIK. I don’t know if ascorbic acid or associated citric acid prevents flukes, but I note that chimps dig, carry and consume watery but poisonous clematis roots (at Semliki?), I assume this allows drinking stagnant freshwater, similar to people using chlorine or iodine pills, willow bark has aspirin-like traits, may have been used similarly, both willow and clematis would irritate GI/stomach but probably also kill worms and flukes, as I think fruit would. Obviously more research is needed to qualify that. {Why on earth do guinea pigs lack Vit C?}

  27. #27 David Marjanović
    August 14, 2009

    “Prosalirus already has the urostyle” YES, NOT a fused coccyx. Frogs have a fused coccyx (right or wrong?)

    <sigh>

    That’s about the same thing. All frogs, except Triadobatrachus (unknown for Czatkobatrachus), have a urostyle, which is a straight spike of bone that consists of the tail vertebrae which… probably ossify in one piece in the first place. (Tadpole tails never contain any bones.)

    Why do you make such categoric statements about things you’re so obviously nowhere near familiar with?

    Small leaves of Archaefructus for small frogs, big leaves for big frogs.

    Dude, the leaves of Archaefructus are tiny. They’re AFAIK about the size of the smallest known extant frogs, and about the size of an eye of the contemporary frogs.

    You are making stuff up.

    Proto-frogs may have started with salamander-like mouths and only short tongues, and lenghtened it with time, but greatly lengthened the tongue when they established hydrostatic feeding on flyers. I’m not saying Sanyanlichan began this method, rather it was the result of it, and because it was so effective the symbiotic relationship strengthened, with alternative speciation on different similar plants in other niches.

    All this waffling comes seventy million years too late!!! About sixty if you insist on the crown-group alone (that is, the smallest clade to which all extant frogs/toads belong), in which case you get to ignore Prosalirus, which is not a good idea.

    My point was that a tree salamander and tree frog split on an early lily pad (or parallel)

    There was no such thing! If there had been, we’d know about it! Forget about it already!

    Seals, sea otters, sea lions do use their tails as rudders (or trim tabs) AFAIK.

    Seals do not swim like sea lions or otters. Otters swim by dorsoventral undulation of the entire body, especially the (for mammalian measures) huge tail. Sea lions use underwater flight. Seals use lateral undulation of the entire body, and use the feet as a tail fin.

    Stop defending your ignorance.

    I don’t know if ascorbic acid or associated citric acid prevents flukes

    So why did you bring that up at all, and why do you now change the topic?

    And what do you mean by “associated citric acid”? In what sense is it associated? Please explain.

    I assume this allows drinking stagnant freshwater,

    What, if anything, makes you think so?

    similar to people using chlorine or iodine pills

    What, if anything, makes you think chlorine and iodine, which BURN PATHOGENS* DOWN ALIVE, are in any way comparable to ascorbic acid or salicylic acid (see below) or citric acid or anything?

    Did you have any chemistry in school? Any?

    * And everything else, of course. But you’re bigger, so burning you down takes longer.

    willow bark has aspirin-like traits

    Willow bark CONTAINS aspirin.* That’s where aspirin CAME FROM. Aspirin is artificial willow bark extract.

    Sorry I’m shouting. I should go to bed. And you should fucking drop your habit of letting a stream of free association blurt out of your virtual mouth before you’ve bothered to find out how much knowledge exists on that topic — or even just how many topics you’re actually talking about.

    * Not quite literally true: it contains salicylic acid, and aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid. However, the acetyl groups are only added to make the stuff more soluble and thus easier to get around in the body; they do not change the effects of the salicylic acid.

    Why on earth do guinea pigs lack Vit C?}

    I don’t know. What do they eat in the wild?

  28. #28 David Marjanović
    August 14, 2009

    Ecologically, Triadobatrachus was somewhere between a short-bodied salamander and a toad. Almost certainly terrestrial or semiaquatic; not aquatic, and not arboreal or (probably) even just scansorial. And there were no rainforests in the Early Triassic; indeed, there is no coal from that time.

  29. #29 DDeden
    August 15, 2009

    I did not know whether a urostyle in *all* later frogs is “welded” or like a ‘swivel’ (but only a single caudal vertebrae!), as all hominoid coccyx are ‘welded’. IMO, today’s urostyle condition Defines modern frog, everything else is secondary (leaping, tongue length, genetic similarity). So a ‘frog’ which has 3 caudal segments is NOT A FROG (even if it is modern frog-like), its a frogamander or proto-frog. The same with a barbary macaque with a tiny segmented stub tail is NOT an ape, it doesn’t have a history of hydrostatic feeding. Once bones fuse (whale pelvis, frog/ape tailbone) they can no longer return to land using their ancestral form of locomotion (compare all apes to all qpal monkeys), unlike say the lorises, which could. This pelvic/coccyx fusion does NOT occur in trees, underground, underwater, only at water surface, due to natural selection for efficient habitual hydrothermodynamic foraging. “leaves of Archaefructus” may well have been part of a frond encircling the flower or air cells at the surface. My point is that the frog was attracted to the plant at the water surface for many hours a day, and this resulted in a strong symbiotic relationship which remains but in many current species has been exapted to trees and underground. A parallel to the bottom article here: http://balancinglife.blogspot.com/2009/08/bat-and-moth-and-ant-and-butterfly.html
    Giardia parasites in beaver ponds select for symbiotic willow coppicing by beavers which never cut the lower tree stem near the roots. Same thing in (coppiced) sedges & water lilies, flukes and early frugivorous hominoids. In lichen, algae and fungi are symbionts, caribou are the (mega)parasites. Photosynthetic organism + guard organism + antagonist parasite.
    Fruits have both citric and ascorbic acid, I don’t know which one kills flukes.

    Willow = Salix = Salicylic. Already knew.
    all of those chemicals burn the stomach lining and weaken cell membranes causing internal bleeding = death to parasites. Beavers don’t get giardia because they eat willow/aspen, we do because we don’t. Guinea pigs eat vit C berries(?) because the acid kills some parasite in their food, I’d think.

    “habit of letting a stream of free association” Its pattern recognition based on parallel niches/behavior but incomplete data.
    BTW Wegener started with his conclusion, per Kim @
    scienceblogs/stressrelated/2009/08/where_do_geoscientists_get_the

    Anyway, the pattern is redundant. Air sacs/tail loss/croak-hoot-hum/water surface food/antagonist-fluke-fruit/bark all correlate into a cohesive set pattern seen in apes, frogs and similar pattern in mysticete cetaceans.

  30. #30 Dr Nick
    August 15, 2009

    DDeden: SIGH. I apologise for sounding very rude, but this is speculation of the most useless type. In short: no no no, the evidence falsifies your peculiar ideas.

  31. #31 windy
    August 15, 2009

    My point is that the frog was attracted to the plant at the water surface for many hours a day, and this resulted in a strong symbiotic relationship which remains but in many current species has been exapted to trees and underground.

    In which modern species do you suppose it remains? Frogs are not restricted to lily pads for hours at a day. They’re often too heavy for them, too.

  32. #32 David Marjanović
    August 15, 2009

    Where do you live, DDeden? I have a number of small lakes right next door, and the frogs are on the shore and in the reeds — there are no lily pads except on two or three tiny locations in one of them, and there I’ve never seen or heard a frog.

    I did not know whether a urostyle in *all* later frogs is “welded”

    Then look it up. Please. Pretty please!

    The urostyle consists of vertebrae that are fused beyond recognition — a greater amount of fusion than in the hominoid coccyx.

    IMO, today’s urostyle condition Defines [sic] modern frog

    OK, fine. In this case, Triadobatrachus is not a modern frog, and it’s not known whether Czatkobatrachus is one — but Prosalirus is a modern frog by this definition. Early Jurassic. Sinemurian or Pliensbachian (the 2nd or 3rd stage of the 4 stages of the Early Jurassic).

    The earliest angiosperms are IIRC Valanginian in age… try to find it, the Sinemurian and the Pliensbachian here.

    The same with a barbary macaque with a tiny segmented stub tail is NOT an ape

    Well, “ape” has a phylogenetic definition: “everything more closely related to us than to the baboons” or suchlike. Macaques don’t fall under this definition and therefore aren’t apes.

    Once bones fuse (whale pelvis, frog/ape tailbone) they can no longer return to land using their ancestral form of locomotion (compare all apes to all qpal monkeys)

    No, no. I can gallop. (Slowly, inefficiently, and only for a short time, but still.) What’s going on is that apes primitively brachiate, so their arms and hands are (as an adaptation too this) too long and their fingers too curved for efficient normal quadrupedal locomotion. Hence fist-walking, knuckle-walking, and bipedal locomotion. The exact length of the tail, let alone its mobility or degree of fusion, has no influence on this — in mammals, there are no leg muscles that insert on the tail…

    This pelvic/coccyx fusion does NOT occur in trees, underground, underwater, only at water surface, due to natural selection for efficient habitual hydrothermodynamic foraging.

    You keep repeating this. You still haven’t even tried to demonstrate it.

    “leaves of Archaefructus” may well have been part of a frond encircling the flower or air cells at the surface.

    What have you smoked, and can I get it legally in the Netherlands?!?

    Dude, this is the Yixian and/or Jiufotang Fm we’re talking about. Several completely and exquisitely preserved plants have been found. You don’t get to act as if evidence didn’t exist just because you happen not to have heard of it.

    I just did a scholar.google.com search for Archaefructus. Several scientific papers on both species of this genus (!) turned up on the first page. Read them.

    This logical fallacy is called the Ham Hightail. You should be ashamed.

    My point is that the frog was attracted to the plant at the water surface for many hours a day

    The problem with this is the “was” part. You made it up.

    Willow = Salix = Salicylic. Already knew.

    Good, because you acted as if you didn’t.

    all of those chemicals burn the stomach lining and weaken cell membranes causing internal bleeding = death to parasites.

    Isn’t it obvious that this is complete nonsense?

    Guinea pigs eat vit C berries(?) because the acid kills some parasite in their food, I’d think.

    You’d be wrong.

    “habit of letting a stream of free association” Its pattern recognition based on parallel niches/behavior but incomplete data.

    No, it’s based on your personal incomplete knowledge of much more complete data than you think.

    BTW Wegener started with his conclusion

    And then, he looked for evidence, and then, third step, he published. You’ve switched the third and the second step around. That’s… bad.

    Air sacs/tail loss/croak-hoot-hum/water surface food/antagonist-fluke-fruit/bark all correlate into a cohesive set pattern

    Argument from ignorance. Logical fallacy. Go back to the start, do not collect 200 $.

  33. #33 DDeden
    August 15, 2009

    Recall I referred to it as a story, like the fable of the rook/crow and the pebbles, which unsurprisingly turned out to be true.
    Note that the burdock & plantain have a 2 stage growth cycle, 1st year large leaves, 2nd year the storage root provides fuel for a tall flowering stalk. Archeofructus *may* have had a similar cycle of large lily pad-like leaves, and the fossils showing only the stalk.

    Frogs are too heavy for lily pads?
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_LAXgMorMCEA/RjQmumwl5-I/AAAAAAAAAE8/HnDRtRXa1tI/s400/child+on+giant+lily+pad.jpg

    Frogs not on lily pads? Predators evolve to find them, there were frogs before birds and possibly before freshwater bass, wetland reeds are far better against them.

    “you acted as if you didn’t”, no you did, but thanks. Seals use their tails as rudders.

    “Isn’t it obvious that this is complete nonsense?” If it is, you need to go back to school. If it isn’t, congratulations, you are learning to think outside of the book/box/cubicle.

    So far, the little story seems more likely, the more info I gather.

  34. #34 Christopher Taylor
    August 15, 2009

    Archeofructus *may* have had a similar cycle of large lily pad-like leaves, and the fossils showing only the stalk.

    And diplodocids *may* have attracted females by farting to the tune of God Save the Queen. As has been pointed out repeatedly, there is simply no indication of such a thing, therefore you have no basis for taking it as a given. As David pointed out, it’s not like all we’ve got to go on is a single scrappy fossil from a small localised deposit.

    And it’s spelt Archaefructus.

    So far, the little story seems more likely, the more info I gather.

    I’ll be civil, and simply point out that the fact that you refer to it as a “little story” is half the problem.

  35. #35 Nathan Myers
    August 15, 2009

    My daughter manages quite a creditable gallop when she’s feeling energetic enough, but, like David, she can’t keep it up. She can canter while the day is long, though; indeed, sometimes she finds it hard to stop. She’s hyperdeveloped what seems to be the distal part of her pectoralis major in the process, making an unusual bulge just inboard of her humerus.

  36. #36 DDeden
    August 16, 2009

    @ 33 – Thank you Christopher, I appreciate the humor and calm response. (sorry for the typo, I made another worse one elsewhere last night.) [BTW I've written a brief/tiny post 'On Bagpipes and Blowguns' at my blog The Arc. It *may* seem nonsense to some. It regards flotation and benthic foraging across taxonomic lines in reference to enlarged and remnant throat air sacs.]

  37. #37 Dartian
    August 17, 2009

    DDeden:

    today’s urostyle condition Defines modern frog

    It’s not quite correct to use the word “define” in this context*. Higher taxa of organisms can only be properly defined by their phylogeny, not by their morphological characteristics (which can, and frequently do, change during the course of evolution). Thus, if one lineage of frogs would somehow re-evolve a long tail they wouldn’t therefore cease to be members of Anura.

    * To say that all members of Anura have an urostyle is really a description, not a definition, of this taxon. It is, unfortunately, quite common that people confuse these two terms, particularly in the older and in the popular/semi-technical literature.

  38. #38 DDeden
    August 26, 2009

    @ 37 – Dartian, fine, use Describe. Long-tailed frog = feathered frog.

  39. #39 Arilena
    October 21, 2010

    Hi,

    By any chance does anyone know if there are subtitles for this documental series?

    Thank you!

  40. #40 Aaron
    August 9, 2011

    Any idea on the age of the fin whale?

    Femur remnants seem to ossify later in life, so it is possible that this whale possessed a cartilaginous femur. Also, the femur isn’t connected to the pelvis in fin whales through an acetabular cavity – but is often separated from the pelvis and connected through tendinous tissue.

    It’s interesting to note the differences in pelvis structure not only between different cetacean species, but also between modern cetaceans and basilosaurids. Basilosaurids have a pelvis with an ilium end directed laterally. Modern cetacnaens have an ilium end directed either anteriorly or posteriorly.