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.

Please visit our companion website for material presented in Inuktitut.

Photo credit: Justin Lemberg, Ph.D

Educational Resources and Links

3D models of fin fossils and skeletons are available for printing and use for teaching.





3D printable surface files of Tiktaalik roseae available on MorphoSource.

Photo credit: Tom Stewart, Ph.D

Computer Tomography (μCT) data of Tiktaalik roseae available on MorphoSource.





Interactive media of Tiktaalik roseae available at HHMI BioInteractive.

Photo credit: Justin Lemberg, 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.


Neil Shubin’s best-selling book, Your Inner Fish, has been turned into a 3-part television series for PBS. Check out the first episode here.

Neil Shubin brings Tiktaalik on the Colbert Report for the launch of his book, Your Inner Fish. Season 4 Episode 5, 01/14/2008

Ted Daeschler on The Colbert Report to present the discovery of Tiktaalik roseae. Season 2 Episode 67, 05/18/2006

Carl Zimmer, a popular science writer, interviews Neil Shubin about the discovery of Tiktaalik, why scientists avoid the phrase “missing link,” and the record of history we take for granted in our own bodies, among other things.

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