Touchstones – Tiktaalik

WHY TIKTAALIK?

What has the head of a crocodile and the gills of a fish?
May 2006, updates added in June 2009 and June 2010

Tiktaalik, of course. Pronounced tik-TAA-lik, this 375 million year old fossil splashed across headlines as soon as its discovery was announced in April of 2006. Unearthed in Arctic Canada by a team of researchers led by Neil Shubin, Edward Daeschler, and Farish Jenkins, Tiktaalik is technically a fish, complete with scales and gills — but it has the flattened head of a crocodile and unusual fins. Its fins have thin ray bones for paddling like most fishes’, but they also have sturdy interior bones that would have allowed Tiktaalik to prop itself up in shallow water and use its limbs for support as most four-legged animals do. Those fins and a suite of other characteristics set Tiktaalik apart as something special; it has a combination of features that show the evolutionary transition between swimming fish and their descendents, the four-legged vertebrates — a clade which includes amphibians, dinosaurs, birds, mammals, and of course, humans.

Tiktaalik

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Tiktaalik

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