Sketch depicts limb bone, which bridges the evolutionary gap between fishes and amphibians.
Credit: Neil Shubin, University of Chicago
How land-living animals evolved from fish has long been a scientific puzzle. A key missing piece has been knowledge of how the fins of fish transformed into the arms and legs of our ancestors. In this weeks issue of the journal Science, paleontologists Neil Shubin and Michael Coates from the University of Chicago and Ted Daeschler from the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, describe a remarkable fossil that bridges the gap between fish and amphibian and provides a glimpse of the structure and function changes from fin to limb.
The fossil, a 365-million-year-old arm bone, or humerus, shares features with primitive fish fins but also has characteristics of a true limb bone. Discovered near a highway roadside in north central Penn., the bone is the earliest of its kind from any limbed animal.
"It has long been understood that the first four-legged creatures on land arose from the lobed-finned fishes in the Devonian Period," said Rich Lane, director of the National Science Foundations (NSF) geology and paleontology program. "Through this work, weve learned that fish developed the ability to prop their bodies through modification of their fins, leading to the emergence of tetrapod limbs."
NSF, the independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, funded the research.
The bones structure reveals an animal that had powerful forelimbs, with extensive areas for the attachment of muscles at the shoulder. "The size and extent of these muscles means that the humerus played a significant role in the support and movement of the animal," reported Shubin. "These muscles would have been important in propping the body up and pushing it off of the ground."
Interestingly, modern-day fish have smaller versions of the muscles. According to Coates, "When this humerus is compared to those of closely-related fish, it becomes clear that the ability to prop the body is more ancient than we previously thought. This means that many of the features we thought evolved to allow for life on land originally evolved in fish living in aquatic ecosystems."
The layered rock along the Clinton County, Penn., roadside were deposited by ancient stream systems that flowed during the Devonian Period, about 365 million years ago. Enclosed in the rocks is fossil evidence of an ecosystem teeming with plant and animal life. "We found a number of interesting fossils at the site," reported Daeschler, who uncovered the fossil in 1993. "But the significance of this specimen went unnoticed for several years because only a small portion of the bone was exposed and most of it lay encased in a brick-sized piece of red sandstone."
Not until three years ago, when Fred Mullison, the fossil preparator at the Academy of Natural Sciences, excavated the bone from the rock, did the importance of the new specimen become evident.
The work was also funded by a grant from the National Geographic Society.
Wintertime Arctic sea ice growth slows long-term decline: NASA
07.12.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Why Tehran Is Sinking Dangerously
06.12.2018 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.
Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...
New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals
Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.
Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.
Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...
Scientists from the Theory Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown through theoretical calculations and computer simulations that the force between electrons and lattice distortions in an atomically thin two-dimensional superconductor can be controlled with virtual photons. This could aid the development of new superconductors for energy-saving devices and many other technical applications.
The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople but it has occupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics.
06.12.2018 | Event News
03.12.2018 | Event News
28.11.2018 | Event News
07.12.2018 | Life Sciences
07.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
07.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy