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Strange Ancient Fish Had Front And Back Legs

Science & Tech  (tags: ancient, discovery, evolution, evolutionary biology, fish, strange science )

- 1894 days ago -
The closest known relative of the ancestors of limbed animals such as humans likely evolved the foundation for rear legs even before the move to land, researchers say.


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pam w (139)
Tuesday January 14, 2014, 7:56 am
OF COURSE....many animals have walked on land and evolved later into aquatic ones. Whales walked on land...snakes once walked on legs....evolution is a marvelous thing!

Kit B (276)
Tuesday January 14, 2014, 7:58 am
Image Credit: Image courtesy of Kalliopi Monoyios, University of Chicago.

The closest known relative of the ancestors of limbed animals such as humans likely evolved the foundation for rear legs even before the move to land, researchers say. This ancestor may have even been able to walk underwater, they added.

These findings reveal that a key step in the evolution of hind limbs happened in fish, challenging previous theories that such appendages evolved only after the move to land.

Scientists investigated fossils of a 375-million-year-old fish known as Tiktaalik roseae, discovered in 2004 in northern Canada's Ellesmere Island. Possessing a broad flat head and sharp teeth, Tiktaalik resembled a cross between a fish and a crocodile, growing to a length of 9 feet (2.7 meters) as it hunted for prey in shallow freshwater.

Bizarre fish:

This ancient creature was undoubtedly a fish, possessing gills, scales and fins. However, it also had features seen in modern tetrapods — four-limbed creatures like amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals — such as a mobile neck and robust ribcage. This extinct fish had large forefins and shoulders, elbows and partial wrists, enabling it to support itself on ground. This makes it the best-known example of an intermediate between finned animals and limbed animals marking the evolutionary leap from water to land for vertebrates, or creatures with backbones. Prior analyses of other fossils dating from the water-land transition found their back appendages were small and weak compared with their front appendages. This suggested the earliest ancestors of tetrapods perhaps had a "front-wheel drive" form of locomotion that depended more on their front limbs, and that a "four-wheel drive" form of locomotion with strong hips and back limbs only developed after tetrapods evolved. Until now, the only specimens of Tiktaalik researchers had examined were of its front portions. To find out more about the fish, researchers investigated additional blocks of rock recovered from the dig site where Tiktaalik was discovered. Although some of these blocks were first excavated in 2004, researchers did not look at them more closely until recently, mainly because the blocks did not seem to contain much bone. Moreover, it took years to carefully and properly remove the rock surrounding the fragile fossils. Titaalik's hind quarters The scientists discovered the rear portion of Tiktaalik, which contained hips as well as partial pelvic fin material. This made a direct comparison of the front and rear appendages of the animal possible.

Unexpectedly, the researchers found Tiktaalik had big, strong pelvic bones with similarities to early tetrapods.

"I was expecting to find a diminutive hind fin and pelvis,"study lead author Neil Shubin, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago,told LiveScience. "Seeing the whopping pelvis set me back a bit — I looked at it again and again, because I was quite surprised."

The pelvic girdle of Tiktaalik was nearly identical in size to its shoulder girdle, a tetrapodlike feature that would help support strong rear appendages. It also possessed a deep ball-and-socket hip joint that connected to a highly mobile femur — analogous to a tetrapod thighbone — that could extend beneath the body. In addition, crests on the hip bone served as points for muscles to attach to, indicating strength and advanced fin function.

Furthermore, although no femur bone was found, the fossil pelvic fin material they did unearth included long fin rays, suggesting the back fin was at least as long and as complex as its front fin. "We had long thought that expanded hind limbs and hips were features of limbed animals," Shubin said. "Tiktaalik shows that our closest fish relatives had expanded hips and hind fins; hence, this feature may well have arisen in fish." The hip of Tiktaalik was still clearly fishlike. For instance, whereas early tetrapod pelvic girdles are split into three parts, the hip of Tiktaalik was undivided. Still the increased size, mobility and robustness of its pelvic girdle, hip joint and fin would have made walking underwater possible, as well as swimming. Shubin cautioned that Tiktaalik is not the ancestor of all limbed vertebrates. It is currently the closest known relative, "but not the sole, direct ancestor," he said. "It is more like our closest cousin."

It remains uncertain how the hind appendages of the earliest limbed vertebrates were used. "Were they used to walk, swim or both?" Shubin asked. The scientists detailed their findings online today (Jan. 13) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

By: Charles Q. Choi | Live Science Contributor | Live Science

JL A (281)
Tuesday January 14, 2014, 9:26 am
Love how the details become fleshed out with more investigation and scientific research!

Kerrie G (116)
Tuesday January 14, 2014, 9:29 am
Noted, thanks.

Suzie Majikol-Maier (9)
Tuesday January 14, 2014, 9:40 am
my closest cousins… first a monkey, now a fish! that tickles! ;)

. (0)
Tuesday January 14, 2014, 9:49 am
Noted & posted

Kit B (276)
Tuesday January 14, 2014, 10:29 am

By tracing the fossil line it was aquatic to land, and if your looking for a distant cousin, that just be might a lemur. This fossilized "missing link" is currently being studied in Germany where it was discovered. residing

Vallee R (280)
Tuesday January 14, 2014, 10:56 am
Agree with Pam - but weird.

Roger G (148)
Tuesday January 14, 2014, 11:56 am
noted, thanks

Sharon Karson (82)
Tuesday January 14, 2014, 8:15 pm
I love to watch our knowledge grow.

Ken O (55)
Wednesday January 15, 2014, 4:20 am
Christians, pay attention, evolution is not a half baked theory.

Bob P (394)
Wednesday January 15, 2014, 3:22 pm
thanks Kit

Past Member (0)
Wednesday January 15, 2014, 6:41 pm

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Wednesday January 15, 2014, 8:28 pm
Fascinating and intriguing.

Past Member (0)
Friday January 17, 2014, 8:27 am
The animal kingdom always fascinates! Thx Kit

Lois Jordan (63)
Friday January 17, 2014, 4:45 pm
Noted. Great info! Thanks for sharing, Kit.
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