Extant cetaceans exhibit hyperphalangy, a condition where the finger have an increased number of bones. The first digit, however,has a reduced number of bones (so hypophalangy) and is actually absent in several baleen whales; only Pilot Whales have hyperphalangy on this digit. The fifth digit generally has the ancestral number of bones for baleen whales but toothed whales typically have reduction; Kogia is an exception with hyperphalangy. In toothed whales, the second and third digits have the most number of bones whereas in baleen whales it is the third and fourth digits.

First Image: (A) Orca, (B) Sperm Whale, (C) North Atlantic Right Whale, (D) Humpback Whale, (E) Ichthyosaur (Stenopterygius sp.)

Second Image: (A) Orca, (B) North Atlantic Right Whale, (C) Sei Whale

Cooper, L. et al. (2007) Evolution of Hyperphalangy and Digit Reduction in the Cetacean Manus. The Anatomical Record 290 654–672


Twenty-three year old Viennese woman, before and after contracting cholera

One mid-19th century report describes cholera victims who were “one minute warm, palpitating, human organisms - the next a sort of galvanized corpse, with icy breath, stopped pulse and blood congealed - blue, shrivelled up, convulsed”. Cholera causes profuse vomiting and diarrhoea, dehydrating the body so rapidly and severely that the blood thickens and the skin becomes deathlike and blue.

Image from the Wellcome Archives

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