Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Newly found species fills evolutionary gap between fish and land animals

06.04.2006
Paleontologists have discovered fossils of a species that provides the missing evolutionary link between fish and the first animals that walked out of water onto land about 375 million years ago. The newly found species, Tiktaalik roseae, has a skull, a neck, ribs and parts of the limbs that are similar to four-legged animals known as tetrapods, as well as fish-like features such as a primitive jaw, fins and scales.

These fossils, found on Ellesmere Island in Arctic Canada, are the most compelling examples yet of an animal that was at the cusp of the fish-tetrapod transition. The new find is described in two related research articles highlighted on the cover of the April 6, 2006, issue of Nature.

"Tiktaalik blurs the boundary between fish and land-living animal both in terms of its anatomy and its way of life," said Neil Shubin, professor and chairman of organismal biology at the University of Chicago and co-leader of the project.

Tiktaalik was a predator with sharp teeth, a crocodile-like head and a flattened body. The well-preserved skeletal material from several specimens, ranging from 4 to 9 feet long, enabled the researchers to study the mosaic pattern of evolutionary change in different parts of the skeleton as fish evolved into land animals.

The high quality of the fossils also allowed the team to examine the joint surfaces on many of the fin bones, concluding that the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints were capable of supporting the body-like limbed animals.

"Human comprehension of the history of life on Earth is taking a major leap forward," said H. Richard Lane, director of sedimentary geology and paleobiology at the National Science Foundation. "These exciting discoveries are providing fossil ’Rosetta Stones’ for a deeper understanding of this evolutionary milestone--fish to land-roaming tetrapods."

One of the most important aspects of this discovery is the illumination of the fin-to-limb transition. In a second paper in the journal, the scientists describe in depth how the pectoral fin of the fish serves as the origin of the tetrapod limb.

Embedded in the fin of Tiktaalik are bones that compare to the upper arm, forearm and primitive parts of the hand of land-living animals.

"Most of the major joints of the fin are functional in this fish," Shubin said. "The shoulder, elbow and even parts of the wrist are already there and working in ways similar to the earliest land-living animals."

At the time that Tiktaalik lived, what is now the Canadian Arctic region was part of a landmass that straddled the equator. It had a subtropical climate, much like the Amazon basin today. The species lived in the small streams of this delta system. According to Shubin, the ecological setting in which these animals evolved provided an environment conducive to the transition to life on land.

"We knew that the rocks on Ellesmere Island offered a glimpse into the right time period and the right ancient environments to provide the potential for finding fossils documenting this important evolutionary transition," said Ted Daeschler of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, a co-leader of the project. "Finding the fossils within this remote, rugged terrain, however, required a lot of time and effort."

The nature of the deposits where the fossils were found and the skeletal structure of Tiktaalik suggests the animal lived in shallow water and perhaps even out of the water for short periods.

"The skeleton of Tiktaalik indicates that it could support its body under the force of gravity whether in very shallow water or on land," said Farish Jenkins, professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of the papers. "This represents a critical early phase in the evolution of all limbed animals, including humans--albeit a very ancient step."

The new fossils were collected during four summers of exploration in Canada’s Nunavut Territory, 600 miles from the North Pole, by paleontologists from the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, the University of Chicago and Harvard University. Although the team has amassed a diverse assemblage of fossil fish, Shubin said, the discovery of these transitional fossils in 2004 was a vindication of their persistence.

The scientists asked the Nunavut people to propose a formal scientific name for the new species. The Elders Council of Nunavut, the Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, suggested "Tiktaalik" (tic-TAH-lick)--the word in the Inuktikuk language for "a large, shallow water fish."

The scientists worked through the Department of Culture, Language, Elders and Youth in Nunavut to collaborate with the local Inuit communities. All fossils are the property of the people of Nunavut and will be returned to Canada after they are studied.

Catherine Gianaro | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uchospitals.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

InLight study: insights into chemical processes using light

05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

High-precision magnetic field sensing

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>