It’s a whale of a bone-and you can buy one

February 26, 1997

ANN ARBOR—When “Back to the Sea: The Evolution of Whales” opens in October at the University of Michigan’s Exhibit Museum, the skeletons and partial skeletons of six whale ancestors will be on display, illustrating the evolution of whales from a meat- eating, hoofed land mammal to a fully aquatic whale—a transformation that took 15 million years.

And now the Museum is offering the public the opportunity to “buy a bone” belonging to the Dorudon atrox, a whale that lived 38 million years ago. Individuals or groups can help finance the whale exhibition by “buying” a tooth for $5, a finger for $25, a rib for $75, a vertebrae for $40, the tip of the tail for $10, one of the two hind legs for $500, or the skull for $1,000. Purchasers will receive a personalized certificate and a donation receipt. A donor plaque listing the names of all sponsors will be mounted when the “Back to the Sea” exhibition is complete. All donors will be invited to a special pre-public unveiling of the exhibit in early October.

More than two years in the making, this whale exhibit is the result of a collaboration between the Exhibit Museum and U-M’s Museum of Paleontology. The exhibit highlights the research of Prof. Philip D. Gingerich, director of the Museum of Paleontology, and will be the most complete display of ancient whale specimens in the world.

A feature of the exhibit will be the ancestral whale Dorudon atrox, a spectacular, carnivorous, sea-going creature armed with ferocious teeth and still bearing tiny hind limbs, evidence of a distant past when its predecessors could crawl up onto land. The Dorudon specimen in the exhibit, a complete, 19-foot cast skeleton, will be displayed in a dramatic swimming posture suspended from the ceiling of the Hall of Evolution on the Museum’s second floor. Some of the other whales in the exhibit will include Pakicetus (an amphibious animal found in near-shore marine sediments), Ambulocetus (an amphibious, large-flippered animal that looked like a cross between a seal, a hippo, and a crocodile), and Rhodocetus (which looked somewhat like a hairy crocodile).

For more information about the “Buy-a-Bone” program, call the Museum at (313) 763-4190.

U-M News and Information Services University of Michigan

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