Univ. of Chicago
A model of the species Tiktaalik, top, and a recreated skeleton of the animal.
A chart depicts the possible evolution of Tiktaalik.
A chart depicts the possible evolution of Tiktaalik. Kalliopi Monoyios
Paleontologists working in northern Canada announce finding an animal skeleton that may bridge the gap between fish and the first four-legged land animals. The 375-million-year-old creature, with a head like a crocodile's, has a body built for swimming. But its front legs are a compromise between fins and feet. The well-preserved specimen indicates rows of sharp teeth, as well.
Researchers discovered the new species, named Tiktaalik roseae, in ancient rock formations in a remote area of the Canadian Arctic. The discovery, reported in the Thursday issue of Nature, was made by Ted Daeschler of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago, and Farish A. Jenkins Jr. of Harvard.
Scientists not involved with the discovery said they were excited by the news. Per Ahlberg, of Uppsala University in Sweden, plans to visit the site soon. He says the new fossil, while similar to another ancient species found in Europe, is part of a sequence that ultimately led to large terrestrial animals.