“That wrist you use to write with, the neck you use to move your head around with, the lungs you’re using to breathe all derive from parts in the bodies of fish. Your hands and arms derive from parts of the fins,” stated University of Chicago Neil Shuban in describing new insights regarding a 375 million-year old fish known as Tiktaalik roseae found on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian arctic a nearly decade ago.
In addition to having fore fins “resembling limbs complete with shoulders , elbows and primitive wrists, that enabed it to support itself on solid ground, Tiktaalik also had a hip joint that is intermediate, oriented in a way that is not quite like those of fish or limbed animals,” continued Shubin, who discovered the “missing link between sea and land creatures with Harvard paleontologists Edward Daeschler (currently of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University), and the late Farish A. Jenkins Jr. (who died of cancer in 2012).
“It’s what we’ve all been waiting for,” said Jennifer Clack, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the UK’s University of Cambridge’s Museum of Zoology. “Until this discovery, we weren’t able to see the changes by which the pelvic fins of the fish became much larger and more robust, and gradually turned into the tetrapod hind limb.”
The scientists also noted that, while the fish had gills, it also had primitive lungs and a “robust ribcage.”