Were animals with four limbs the first to evolve fingers and toes-- or did such digits evolve long before? A linkurl:study published today;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nature07339.html (September 21) in Nature claims to resolve this long-standing question. For many years, most paleontologists debated whether digits arose 380 million years ago as a novel evolutionary trait in tetrapods, or four-footed creatures. The new study, led by Catherine Boisvert, at Uppsala University in Sweden, identifies distinct digit-like structures, called distal radials, in the fin of a 385 million-year-old fish, Panderichthys. This fish is one of eight ancient fish species that paleontologists have specimens of, whose fossils date from between 385 and 365 million years ago, and are thought to be early predecessors of tetrapods. The finding suggests that the underpinnings of digits may have evolved in such fish, which did not walk on land, but lived in coastal shallow regions. "Here we get the first...
The ScientistThe ScientistTiktaalikPanderichthysTiktaalikTiktaalik
Fish fingers point to origin of digits (Video credit: Catherine A. Boisvert, Elga Mark-Kurik, and Per E. Ahlberg)

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?