Aquatic elephants. Was re:Tears

Bill Burnett (
Thu, 19 Oct 1995 11:07:37

Hi All..

I'll confess I'd not heard the notion that elephants and sea cows 'have a
shared marine ancestor' before (unwisely?) jumping into this thread.

Apparently because elephants are 'ex-marine' this explains their weeping under
stress, and subsequently because we weep we're ex-marine too... or at least
it's (allegedly) logical that we are highly likely to be (according to James
Borrett, correct me if I'm wrong, James.)

So, I went looking (I haven't finished yet) for the so-called 'strong
evidence' that elephants and sea cows (or Proboscidea and Sirenia which i also
searched for) share a marine ancestor. Actually, if you search for them
together, or for Tethytheres or Tethytheria (the group which allegedly
includes both) you don't generally come up with much, at least not with BIDS,
which is not a bad database.

But I have come up with something...

Court, N. (1994) 'The periotic of Moeritherium (Mammalia, Proboscidea):
homology or homoplasy in the ear region of Tethytheria McKenna, 1975?' Zool.
J. Linn. Soc. 112: 13-28

Who concludes:
"...unprecidented homoplasy in the auditory region of tethytheres should at
least engender some unease about the reality of Tethytheria. In agreement
with Novacek (1986b), the wider evidence for a close association between
seacows and elephants certainly requires further scrutiny."

Novacek's paper is:
Novacek, M.J. (1986) 'The primitive eutherian dental formula' J. Vert. Paleo
6: 191-196

My institute doesn't have this and I'm not about to inter library loan it.
Can anyone out there tell me what it says?

So far I've been unable to find any evidence _for_ Tethytheres, I'm sure it's
out there so if anyone wants to save me some time you could send me a ref.

However, I think I've demonstrated that the APT (Aquatic Pachyderm Theory)
is far from settled either, which is all I set out to achieve. Therefore any
comments about whether they shed tears of sorrow can have only speculative
relavence as to whether _our_ tears are a consequence of alleged aquatic
ancestry. To base pro AAT speculation on unproven APT speculation is standing
on thin ice indeed.