Guardian Unlimited | Science | Discovered: missing link that solves a mystery of evolution
Scientists have made one of the most important fossil finds in history: a missing link between fish and land animals, showing how creatures first walked out of the water and on to dry land more than 375m years ago.
Palaeontologists have said that the find, a crocodile-like animal called the Tiktaalik roseae and described today in the journal Nature, could become an icon of evolution in action – like Archaeopteryx, the famous fossil that bridged the gap between reptiles and birds.
Dr Clack said that, judging from the fossil, the first evolutionary transition from sea to land probably involved learning how to breathe air. "Tiktaalik has lost a series of bones that, in fishes, covers the gill region and helps to operate the gill-breathing mechanism," she said. "The air-breathing mechanism it had would have been elaborated and having lost the series of bones that lies between the head and the shoulder girdle means it's got a neck, it can raise its head more easily in order to gulp the air.
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