DNA suggests whales descended from land mammals

If you were asked what kinds of animals a whale most resembles, what would you say? Fishes? Sharks? Manatees? Perhaps even seals and sea lions? Certainly they look more like those than a dog…or a bat…or a cow. So if God created all animals as they appear today, presumably the DNA of whales, the underlying ‘blueprint’ or code determining how they look, should be more similar to other swimming animals.

In fact, what we find is that whales are far more similar genetically to hoofed mammals, such as cows, pigs, giraffes, gazelles and camels, than they are to any other animals.


So this humpback whale…


…is more similar genetically to this tiny antelope called a klipspringer…


…than it is to this aquatic manatee…


…or this whale shark.

An example of why we know this is from a study by my PhD advisor and his colleagues [1] in which they compared 164 different species of mammals using 35,603 letters of DNA. The results of their analyses showed that whales came out with hippos, nested smack dab within other hoofed mammals. In fact, whales are more genetically similar to giraffes, cows, goats and gazelles (among others) than camels or pigs are. Beyond that, whales are more similar to bats, or even giant pandas, than they are to the aquatic manatees.


It might be difficult to see, but in the bottom of the green branches you’ll notice a humpback whale (the blue one) and a sperm whale (the gray one) are in the same group as the hoofed mammals (shown are a deer and an okapi).

This ties nicely into the fossil evidence that suggests that whales descended from terrestrial mammals.

Questions for Creationists

Why would God create whales to be more similar genetically to a giraffe or a cow than other large aquatic animals such as sharks, especially when whales do not even remotely resemble such hoofed mammals?


1. Meredith, R. W., Janečka, J. E., Gatesy, J., Ryder, O. A., Fisher, C. A., Teeling, E. C., … & Murphy, W. J. (2011). Impacts of the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution and KPg extinction on mammal diversification. Science334(6055), 521-524.


6 thoughts on “DNA suggests whales descended from land mammals

  1. Pingback: Pseudogenes: Whales have remnants of tooth genes | Evolution For Skeptics

  2. Pingback: Transitional fossils: From land mammals to the ancestor of modern whales | Evolution For Skeptics

  3. Pingback: Transitional fossils: Manatees that walked on land – Evolution For Skeptics

  4. Pingback: Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny: Fetal whales have hindlimb buds – Evolution For Skeptics

  5. Pingback: From the ancestor of modern whales to baleen whales – Evolution For Skeptics

  6. Pingback: Whales walked in India and Pakistan before swimming around the world – Evolution For Skeptics

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