Neil Shubinâ€™s Quest to Discover Tiktaalik
Joyce Park stashed this in Science
Wonderful writeup of the discovery of my favorite fossil, the very happy-looking fishapod Tiktaalik Roseae.
Today I learned what a fishapod is, thanks to you.
It had scales on its back, like a fish. But unlike fish that have cone-shaped heads, it had a flat head, like a crocodile. And that head, unlike fish heads which are connected directly to their shoulders, was connected to the trunk by a neck, like those of four-legged animals. It had fins with webbing, but it also had bones inside the fin that correspond to the upper arm, forearm, and, most unexpectedly, it had a wrist boneâ€”something not found in any other fish. Moreover, the fin bones had joints that allowed them, like our limb bones, to move and to flex and extend. This fish could do push-ups.
It was part fish, part tetrapodâ€”a fishapod.
It was exactly the sort of intermediate between water- and land-dwelling vertebrates the team had hoped to find, but their quest turned out far better than they could have imagined. They had more specimens, and more complete and exceptionally well-preserved specimens than they could have reasonably wished for, the largest representing an animal nearly 9 feet long. And all of them were found in one location, in rocks of the right age (375 million years old), in exactly the sort of ancient stream environment they had anticipated.
The fish could do push ups!