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Epochal fossils found, filling water-to-land evolutionary gap
www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-07 09:30:08

    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.

This undated picture shows the preserved remains of a newfound fish fossil with swim fins and a head like a crocodile.

This undated picture shows the preserved remains of a newfound fish fossil with swim fins and a head like a crocodile. (AFP/Nature)
    The discovery, cited as epochal by other scientists, is detailed in the journal Nature Thursday.

    The 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 happened.

    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

    

(Agencies)

Editor: Yao Runping
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