Ancient Fish Grew a Neck, Began Move Toward Land

By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted Oct 15, 2008 6:16 PM CDT
The fossil of the Tiktaalik is helping scientists understand how creatures made the transition from water to land.   (Ted Daeschler /Handout)

(Newser) – Meet the newest member of the family tree: a 9-foot fish that lived 375 million years ago. Scientists say its fossil is providing the best look to date at how creatures made the transition from water to land, the New York Times reports. The “fishapod”—thought to be the predecessor of amphibians, dinosaurs, mammals, and humans—didn’t simply morph its gills into limbs. It grew a neck, possibly the world's first, and its head and braincase similarly changed to suit life on land.

“We see that cranial features once associated with land-living animals were first adaptations for life in shallow water,” said one author of the study in Nature. Another find from the so-called Tiktaalik, found in the Nunavut region of Canada a few years ago: A small bone used for underwater feeding and breathing began a shift toward its new role for hearing.