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Do Elephants Have Knees? And Other Stories of Darwinian Origins$
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Charles R., Jr. Ault

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781501704673

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501704673.001.0001

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The Bearduck of Baleen

The Bearduck of Baleen

On the Origin of New Traits from Existing Ones

Chapter:
(p.121) 8 The Bearduck of Baleen
Source:
Do Elephants Have Knees? And Other Stories of Darwinian Origins
Author(s):

Charles R. Ault

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9781501704673.003.0008

This chapter examines the origin of incipient traits by focusing on Charles Darwin's ideas. Darwin's musings on the origins of whales find their place sandwiched between Rudyard Kipling's comic relief in “How the Whale Got His Throat” and Herman Melville's haunting despair in Moby-Dick. Kipling answers the conundrum “Which came first, the toothed or the baleen whales?” This chapter begins with a discussion of the grating in the “throat” of Kipling's Whale, the structure now known as baleen. It then considers the change in diet and feeding behavior among whales: first teeth, then baleen. It also looks at Darwin's idea of “incipient organs”; St. George Mivart's objections to the viability of an intermediate eye; Darwin's notion of a swimming bear feeding like a shoveller duck—a bearduck; and the variability and evolution of both eyes and limbs in relation to the viability of intermediate—hence incipient—organs. The chapter concludes by explaining how Darwin outlined plausible reconciliations to the conundrum of incipient organs.

Keywords:   incipient traits, Charles Darwin, baleen whales, St. George Mivart, bearduck, evolution, eyes, limbs, incipient organs

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