Tiktaalik roseae is a 375 million year old fossil fish that was discovered in the Canadian Arctic in 2004. Its discovery sheds light on a pivotal point in the history of life on Earth: when the very first fish ventured out onto land.
Tiktaalik is sometimes called a “fishapod,” because it looks like a cross between the primitive lobe-finned fish that it lived amongst and the first four-legged animals (a group called “tetrapods” from tetra-, meaning four, and -pod, meaning foot). All animals that descended from these pioneer amphibians, including us, can be called tetrapods. Tiktaalik lived about 12 million years before the first tetrapods, which are approximately 363 million years old. So, the existence of tetrapod features in a fish like Tiktaalik is significant, because it marks the earliest appearance of these novel features in the fossil record.
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Photo credit: Justin Lemberg, Ph.D
Educational Resources and Links
Photo credit: Tom Stewart, Ph.D
Lemberg JB, Daeschler EB, Shubin NH. The feeding system of Tiktaalik roseae: an intermediate between suction feeding and biting. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Feb 16;118(7):e2016421118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2016421118. PMID: 33526593; PMCID: PMC7896305.
Stewart TA, Lemberg JB, Taft NK, Yoo I, Daeschler EB, Shubin NH. Fin ray patterns at the fin-to-limb transition. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Jan 21;117(3):1612-1620. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1915983117. Epub 2019 Dec 30. PMID: 31888998; PMCID: PMC6983361.
Lemberg JB, Shubin NH, Westneat MW. Feeding kinematics and morphology of the alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula, Lacépède, 1803). J Morphol. 2019 Oct;280(10):1548-1570. doi: 10.1002/jmor.21048. Epub 2019 Aug 6. PMID: 31385619.
Shubin NH, Daeschler EB, Jenkins FA Jr. Pelvic girdle and fin of Tiktaalik roseae. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jan 21;111(3):893-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1322559111. Epub 2014 Jan 13. PMID: 24449831; PMCID: PMC3903263.
Downs JP, Daeschler EB, Jenkins FA Jr, Shubin NH. The cranial endoskeleton of Tiktaalik roseae. Nature. 2008 Oct 16;455(7215):925-9. doi: 10.1038/nature07189. PMID: 18923515.
Daeschler EB, Shubin NH, Jenkins FA Jr. A Devonian tetrapod-like fish and the evolution of the tetrapod body plan. Nature. 2006 Apr 6;440(7085):757-63. doi: 10.1038/nature04639. PMID: 16598249.
Shubin NH, Daeschler EB, Jenkins FA Jr. The pectoral fin of Tiktaalik roseae and the origin of the tetrapod limb. Nature. 2006 Apr 6;440(7085):764-71. doi: 10.1038/nature04637. PMID: 16598250.