The Most Depressing Picture Ever

I was reading the excellent Tetrapod Zoology‘s great “Seriously frickin’ weird cetacean skulls week” all last week with great interest, until I was confronted with the following picture of a deformed sperm whale jaw

My first thought was ‘neato’, but as time went on the thought kept creeping to the forefront of my mind.  Read along with me the following background information about sperm whale jaws:

This is not the only sperm whale individual in which a coiled lower jaw was reported, and there are also quite a few additional records of sperm whales with strongly bent, hooked or crooked lower jaws. . . important thing is that the individuals that possessed these jaws were generally described as healthy and otherwise normal (such was the case for the individual shown here). This strongly indicates that, however sperm whales obtain food, they don’t need nice neat ‘normal’ lower jaws to do it.

The thought that immediately springs to my mind is that of the future humans in Kurt Vonnegut’s classic Galapagos.  For those of you who haven’t read it, it’s about a global plague that makes humans go extinct everywhere except the Galapagos Islands, where they promptly (over the next million years) ‘evolve’ less complicated minds, flippers, lose the capacity for language and basically become seals. However they obtain food, they don’t need nice neat ‘normal’ intelligence to do it. In Vonnegut’s protagonist (a ghost)’s view it’s a vast improvement, with all the unnecessary intelligence and thoughts associated with being a human done away with.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of a jaw becoming a vestigial organ is just inherently disturbing to me.  Moreso than the idea of a mouth full of teeth becoming a bony, toothless beak (as is happening with several other cetaceans as we speak) for some reason.  I highly suspect that this is due to the influence of Gord Sellar’s description of the conceptually highly disturbing Celestis, by Paul Park, about a human colony on a planet of jawless humanoids that use plastic surgery (i.e. plastic jaws) and drugs to try to be like humans.  Thanks for giving me freaky nightmares about jaws, Gordo!


~ by Joshing on August 8, 2008.

One Response to “The Most Depressing Picture Ever”

  1. Damn, I need to read Galapagos. (I discovered Vonnegut much later than you did.) 🙂

    Always happy to depress! But seriously, you should read Celestis. Great novel…

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