BEIJING, April 7 (Xinhuanet) -- Scientists
have discovered a group of fossils in the frozen rocks of an island north of the
Arctic Circle in Canada, which fills an evolutionary gap between fish and
four-legged land animals.
The discovery, cited as epochal by other scientists, is detailed
in the journal Nature Thursday.
|This undated picture shows the
preserved remains of a newfound fish fossil with swim fins
and a head like a crocodile.
newfound fossils, including several specimens 4 to 9 feet long, show that the
animals bore the scales, gills and fins of fish, but also the ribs, neck and
primitive limbs of what ultimately would become the arms and legs of the first
land animals -- the ancestors of all reptiles, dinosaurs, birds and mammals,
including humans, the scientists say.
"What we found in the rock was clearly a fish, but it
had a long flat head with its eyes on top like a crocodile, a beautiful
shoulder, a beautiful elbow and a beautiful wrist," one of the discoverers said.
"It sort of blurs the distinction between fish and land-living animals."
The scientists named their fish species Tiktaalik
roseae after the Inuit word for "large freshwater fish" and the name of an
anonymous donor who helped finance the research.
Scientists have long known that fish evolved into the
first creatures on land with four legs and backbones more than 365 million years
ago, but they've had precious little fossil evidence to document how it
They said the discovery, with its unusually
well-preserved and complete skeletons, reveals significant new information about
how the water-to-land evolution took place. Enditem