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How fish got legs? This fossil has a clue

A fossil of a 375-million-year-old fish, which could prove how animals evolved out of fish, has been found in Canada providing scientists a tool to fill in a gap in understanding how it developed legs for land mobility.

india Updated: Jul 19, 2006 16:20 IST

A fossil of a 375-million-year-old fish, which could prove how animals evolved out of fish, has been found in Canada providing scientists a tool to fill in a gap in understanding how it developed legs for land mobility.

Palaeontologists are calling the specimen a true "missing link" as it helps to fill in a gap in the understanding of how fish developed legs for land mobility, before eventually evolving into modern animals, the 'Nature' report said.

Several samples of the fish-like tetrapod, named Tiktaalik roseae, were discovered by Edward Daeschler of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago and Farish Jenkins of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the magazine said.

The discovery of well preserved skeletons was made in sediments of former streambeds in the Canadian Artic, about 960 km from the North Pole.

The skeletons have the fins, scales and other attributes of a giant fish, 4 to 9 feet long. But on closer examination, the scientists found telling anatomical traits of a transitional creature, a fish that is still a fish but has changes that anticipate the emergence of land animals and is thus a predecessor of amphibians, reptiles and dinosaurs, mammals and eventually humans.

The scientists, the report said, found the samples in a river delta on Ellesmere Island. These included a near-complete front half of a fossilized skeleton of a crocodile-like creature, whose skull is some 20 centimetres long.

First Published: Apr 06, 2006 20:03 IST