Decent land right issues and the outcome of the Mabo case have a somewhat comical side effect: what would be the decision, if some person would challenge the sea right on behalf of the Humpback whales? Their claim would be legitimate. In their present shape they have been on this planet for around five million years, swimming all the great oceans, never polluting or over populating them, brilliantly maintaining a balance between food supply and their own numbers. We, humans, have been walking the earth for just a few thousand years and look what we have done to the land, sea and atmosphere, as well as to our fellow man.
Where do the whales come from? Well, scientists believe that they were once land-based animals, not unlike dogs, living on the shores of the sea, feeding on and obviously enjoying seafood.
They walked into the water, caught a fish and returned to the beach to rest and sleep.
But over a long period of time, perhaps some forty five million years, they stayed longer and longer in the water until they eventually did not return to land. The resemblance to these earlier dog-like creatures is still apparent, when you look at a seal, sea-lion or walrus. They can still lay on the beach or rocky shores. But larger whales would totally collapse on land.
A number of changes took place during this time of evolution. They lost their furry coat, which acted as insulation and this was replaced by a layer of fat or blubber. Their rear legs disappeared and only in some whales are some rudiments left of the hind leg bone structure. The tail flared out to become their main propulsion and that is why whales swim with their tails in an up and down motion. Fish and sharks swim with their tails moving sideways. Their front legs became their pectoral fins. Their nostrils moved to the top of their head, now called blowhole, which closes while diving. And of course their body adjusted to the salt levels in seawater. And they learned to hear under water, something they can do over incredible distances and which is so very important to be able to communicate with each one other major change occurred, but only to four of the thirteen different "families" of whales. Instead of teeth they developed a filtering system (baleen), which enabled them to feed on very small shrimps (krill), plankton and small school fish.
So, this is what scientists believe happened over a period of forty five million years, from a hairy four-legged animal walking along the beach to Megaptera Novaeangliae or Humpback whale.