Whale hands

Reposted a portion from here.

While touring the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley’s Cal Day, my daughter made a comment that I am so very proud of. We were looking at the fossils of several marine mammals. I was describing the anatomy of the whale, and she interrupted me to point at this part and tell me that it was the “hand”. Yes! What a very clever observation, dear little person! 

Whale “hand”

Of course, being the big nerd that I am, I then held up both her hand and my hand next to it, and explained how the bones in the whale’s flipper are actually homologous (shared from a common ancestor) with human hand bones. (I might have also used the words metacarpals and phalanges… but really, how are children supposed to learn if we are afraid to challenge them with new words and ideas? Lucky for me, she just eats it up.) So, even though a whale’s flipper, and a human hand look quite different on the outside, the bones underneath enlighten us about our shared evolutionary history.

She was able to recognize, at two years old, what so many people close their eyes to. Amazing.