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Fossil fish discovery reveals origins of limbs


Posted on Tuesday, 14 January, 2014 | Comment icon 31 comments

Tiktaalik emerge from the water in this museum exhibit. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 ponizej
A recently discovered prehistoric fish is believed to exhibit an early precursor to modern arms and legs.
The 375-million-year-old Tiktaalik roseae fossil was discovered by three palaeontologists in the Canadian Arctic and possesses skeletal features, including limb-like fins and large pelvic bones, that are remarkably similar to those found in modern land animals.

This prehistoric crocodile-like fish is likely to have been a transitional species, bridging the gap between animals that lived in the water and animals that lived on the land. Its fins even possess primitive elbow and wrist-type joints.

"That wrist you use to write with, the neck you use to move your head around with, the lungs you’re using to breathe... all derive from parts in the bodies of fish," said Prof Neil Shubin. "Your hands and arms derive from parts of the fins."

It isn't clear at exactly what point Tiktaalik would have been able to emerge from the water and move about on land, but it is thought that it would have been capable of squirming across shallow water, a bit like a mudskipper.

"What the fossil record tells us is how deeply we are connected to life on the rest of the planet. In this case, this tells us how closely we are related to fish," said Prof Shubin.

Source: Boston Globe | Comments (31)

Tags: Tiktaalik

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #22 Posted by Peter B on 16 January, 2014, 14:03
Maybe the phrase "pinnacle of creation" could be altered to read "pinnacle of evolution" for non-religious scientists. We humans are special in the sense that we are at the top of the evolutionary cycle. Yes, there are people who long to be "free as a bird," but I don't imagine many people actually want to BE a bird. Neither do I imagine there are apes who think to themselves, "If only I was a fish...," or dogs who think, "If only I was a cockroach....". I wouldn't be too sure. The dog we had when I was a kid seemed to want to be some smelly thing in the ground whenever we gave her a bath... :... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by simplybill on 17 January, 2014, 17:23
I'd respectfully suggest that using the word "point" in relation to evolution is,er, missing the point (sorry). It's better to think of evolution as simply a process with no ultimate objective. It isn't a thing which can express desire or intent. Evolution generally (though not always) works at a very slow pace. I agree with you that evolution works at a very slow pace, though your use of the verb "work" suggests purpose. Perhaps you meant to say "[operates] at a very slow pace"? Just so you know where you know I'm coming from: I believe that our "Intelligent Designer" may very well have used ... [More]
Comment icon #24 Posted by The Krimson King on 17 January, 2014, 19:56
In the early stages in development in humans the fetus has gills to help it survive in the womb. Then they develop lungs when it is close to birth.
Comment icon #25 Posted by simplybill on 17 January, 2014, 20:26
In the early stages in development in humans the fetus has gills to help it survive in the womb. Then they develop lungs when it is close to birth. It would be interesting to know if at any time during a fetus' development its DNA is similar to the DNA of a fish, or if it remains fully human from conception to birth.
Comment icon #26 Posted by simplybill on 17 January, 2014, 23:09
It would be interesting to know if at any time during a fetus' development its DNA is similar to the DNA of a fish, or if it remains fully human from conception to birth. I apologize for that last statement. It occurred during caffiene-induced psychosis.
Comment icon #27 Posted by SameerPrehistorica on 19 January, 2014, 5:29
Interesting,exactly this is it. This is what i always believed ----- (“That wrist you use to write with, the neck you use to move your head around with, the lungs you’re using to breathe . . . all derive from parts in the bodies of fish.) Absolutely perfect ----- (“What the fossil record tells us is how deeply we are connected to life on the rest of the planet. In this case, this tells us how closely we are related to fish.”) Don't forget the Great legends Charles Darwin and Georges Cuvier. ( Without fossils, no one would have ever dreamed that there were successive epochs in the formation of ... [More]
Comment icon #28 Posted by Peter B on 19 January, 2014, 10:46
I agree with you that evolution works at a very slow pace, though your use of the verb "work" suggests purpose. Perhaps you meant to say "[operates] at a very slow pace"? Yes. Thank you for the correction. Just so you know where you know I'm coming from: I believe that our "Intelligent Designer" may very well have used the process of evolution to "form mankind from the dust of the earth". I also believe He "brought forth each according to its kind". You mentioned mud flats, and I mentioned separate evolutionary trees. Sea creatures were evolved in the sea, and land creatures were evolved on la... [More]
Comment icon #29 Posted by Peter B on 19 January, 2014, 11:02
In the early stages in development in humans the fetus has gills to help it survive in the womb. Then they develop lungs when it is close to birth. I'm not sure but I understand this is incorrect. Human foetuses develop pharyngeal arches which go on to form into things like muscles and bones around the jaw and ears. In fish the same pharyngeal arches develop into gills. If the theory of evolution is correct (as I think it pretty much is) then the gills of our fishy ancestors were at some time repurposed. This is not to say it happened all in one generation, but in subtle changes over millions ... [More]
Comment icon #30 Posted by Peter B on 19 January, 2014, 11:10
Simplybill said: It would be interesting to know if at any time during a fetus' development its DNA is similar to the DNA of a fish, or if it remains fully human from conception to birth. Simplybill then added: I apologize for that last statement. It occurred during caffiene-induced psychosis. LOL! Bartender, send that man another double espresso! Don't worry, no apology needed. And in case anyone was wondering about the answer to that question, our DNA remains the same throughout our life. Having mentioned it though, it's worth knowing that examination of our DNA and the DNA of plants, animal... [More]
Comment icon #31 Posted by Duchess Gummybuns on 24 January, 2014, 21:29
So...I'm typing thanks to a Tiktaalik? Thank you, Tiktaalik, for breaking the laws of legs, and playing by your own.


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