Thursday, April 6, 2006

This fish had arms:Missing link found

From Toronto Star: A part crocodile, part seal-like fish that was able to take the first baby steps on to land roughly 380 million years ago.

The discovery, 1,400 kilometres above the Arctic Circle, of fossilized skeletons of a creature dubbed Tiktaalik roseae is seen as filling a missing evolutionary link between fish and the first land animals.

The findings were announced yesterday by a U.S.-Canada team that included a University of Toronto graduate researcher.

Steve Cumbaa, a research paleontologist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa not connected with the work, hailed the discovery.

"These are the first little baby steps on getting animals `out of ooze and born to cruise,'" Cumbaa said, quoting a catchphrase by American cartoonist Ray Troll.

Experts say that within a few million years Tiktaalik was followed by creatures completely adapted to terrestrial life, collectively called tetrapods. These then evolved into all the land animals on Earth today, including humans.

The discovery is important because it helps researchers reconstruct the detailed path of anatomical adaptation at a critical state of evolution.

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