The ”four-legged fish” Ichthyostega is not the ”missing link” between marine and land animals, but rather one of several short-lived ”experiments”. This is what scientists from Uppsala and Cambridge universities maintain in an article in the latest issue of the scientific journal Nature.
The ”four-legged fish” Ichthyostega lived in Greenland during the Devon Period, some 355 million years ago, and is one of the very oldest land vertebrates. Since it was discovered back in the 1930s, and nearly the entire skeleton has been preserved, it quickly acquired iconic status as the ”missing link” between fish and land animals. Now a Swedish-British research team is presenting a new reconstruction of this classic animal that paints a radically different picture of its body shape and life style.
It isn´t easy to interpret the fossil of Ichthyostega. Even though almost the whole skeleton is represented, there is no single fossil that shows the whole animal. Instead it is necessary to assemble a puzzle from information found in several different fossils. This was first done in the 1950s by Professor Erik Jarvik at the Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, who reconstructed the animal with a crocodile-like body standing on four sturdy legs, with a large torso and a simple backbone made up of identical vertebrae. However, for the last five years a research team from Uppsala and Cambridge has been piecing together another interpretation.
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