Quirky "fishapod" crawls onto our family treeIt'll be interesting to see what kind of creative contortions creationists will perform to explain this "missing link" away.
U.S. researchers say they have found the missing evolutionary link between fish and land animals: fossils of a strange creature that crawled onto the shore about 375 million years ago.
The fossils, found on Ellesmere Island in Arctic Canada, have the skull, neck, ribs and limb bones of four-legged animals and the primitive jaw, fin and scales of fish, according to a report published today in the journal Nature.
"This really is what our ancestors looked like when they began to leave the water," according to an editorial accompanying the report.
The newly discovered species, Tiktaalik roseae, "blurs the boundary between fish and land-living animal both in terms of its anatomy and its way of life," said biologist Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago, one of the co-leaders of the expedition.
"This animal is both fish and tetrapod," Shubin said. "We jokingly call it a fishapod."
Moreover, it had a neck, making it the only fish known to have one. "The neck was one of the biggest surprises," said Daeschler, of The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. "This freed the skull from the shoulder girdle and gave the animal extra mobility."
Also, at the ends of the powerful fins, the team found wrists and bones similar to fingers. But the fins also contained the thin rods found in fish fins. "Here is a creature with fins that can do push-ups," Shubin said. "This is clearly an animal that is able to support itself on the ground," probably in shallow water and for brief excursions on land. On land, it apparently moved like a seal, he said.
The good professor over at Pharyngula is already having fun with this revolutionary evolutionary discovery.