Fossil Fish With “Limbs” Is Missing Link, Study Says
by James Owen, Apr., 2006
Fossil hunters may have discovered the fish that made humans possible.
Found in the Canadian Arctic, the new fossil boasts leglike fins, scientists say. The creature is being hailed as a crucial missing link between fish and land animals—including the prehistoric ancestors of humans.
Researchers say the fish shows how fins on freshwater species first began transforming into limbs some 380 million years ago. The change was a huge evolutionary step that opened the way for vertebrates—animals with backbones—to emerge from the water.
“This animal represents the transition from water to land—the part of history that includes ourselves,” said paleontologist Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago.
Shubin was co-leader of a team that uncovered three nearly complete fossils measuring up to nine feet (3 m) long on Ellesmere Island in 2004. The new species, Tiktaalik roseae, had a flattened, crocodile-like head and strong, bony fins…
(read more: National Geo)
(image: T - Shawn Gould, Nat. Geo.; BL - Univ of Chicago; BR - Graham Roberts, NY Times)