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Separate returns to water for whales and hippos? No.

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From the Springer et al. 2021 abstract:
“The macroevolutionary transition from terra firma to obligatory inhabitance of the marine hydrosphere has occurred twice in the history of Mammalia: Cetacea and Sirenia.”

No. Cetacea is diphyletic with separate origins for tenrecs + archaeocetes + odontocetes apart from hippos + desmostylians + mysticetetes.

“In the case of Cetacea (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), molecular phylogenies provide unambiguous evidence that fully aquatic cetaceans and semiaquatic hippopotamids (hippos) are each other’s closest living relatives.”

No. As noted many times earlier, molecular phylogenies too often deliver false positives. Use traits. We cannot trust DNA results in deep time studies.

“These results, together with histological differences in the integument and prior analyses of oxygen isotopes from stem hippopotamids (“anthracotheres”), support the hypothesis that aquatic skin adaptations evolved independently in hippos and cetaceans.”

If so, the authors are “Pulling a Larry Martin” by ignoring taxa, ignoring traits and pinning all their hopes on unreliable genes and skin isotopes.

Springer MS et al. (10 co-authors) 2021. Genomicand anatomical comparisons of skin support independent adaptation to life in water by cetaceans and hippos. Current Biology


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