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Fossil Suggests Missing Link From Fish to Land

Paleontologists working in northern Canada announce finding an animal skeleton that may bridge the gap between fish and the first four-legged land animals. The 375-million-year-old creature, with a head like a crocodile's, has a body built for swimming. But its front legs are a compromise between fins and feet. The well-preserved specimen indicates rows of sharp teeth, as well.

Researchers discovered the new species, named Tiktaalik roseae, in ancient rock formations in a remote area of the Canadian Arctic. The discovery, reported in the Thursday issue of Nature, was made by Ted Daeschler of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago, and Farish A. Jenkins Jr. of Harvard.

Scientists not involved with the discovery said they were excited by the news. Per Ahlberg, of Uppsala University in Sweden, plans to visit the site soon. He says the new fossil, while similar to another ancient species found in Europe, is part of a sequence that ultimately led to large terrestrial animals.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Award-winning journalist Richard Harris has reported on a wide range of topics in science, medicine and the environment since he joined NPR in 1986. In early 2014, his focus shifted from an emphasis on climate change and the environment to biomedical research.