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Species Linking Fish And Land Animals Found

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
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