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Media Advisory 07-001

Paleontologists to Discuss "Gap" Fossils that Link Fish and Land Animals

Lecture scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007, at the National Science Foundation

The "Tiktaalik" fossil bridges the evolutionary gap between fish and land animals.

The "Tiktaalik" fossil bridges the evolutionary gap between fish and land animals.


January 16, 2007

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Working in rocks more than 70 million years old far above the Arctic Circle, paleontologists discovered a remarkable new fossil species that is the most compelling evidence yet of an intermediate stage between fish and early limbed animals.

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007, the paleontologists will provide an inside look at their field research during a lecture at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, Va. They will talk about their finding, show the fossil and discuss the evolutionary leap from fish to land animals and how their discovery bridges that gap.

WHO: Paleontologists Neil Shubin and Ted Daeschler
WHAT: Lecture on Tiktaalik: Finding the Fishapod
WHERE: National Science Foundation, Room 110
4201 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22230
WHEN: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 1:30 p.m.

Background:

The new fossil species has a skull, neck, ribs and parts of a fin that resemble the earliest limbed animals, called tetrapods. But the creature also has fins and scales like a fish. It was discovered by Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago and Ted Daeschler of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, along with paleontologists from Harvard University.

The scientists call their find a fishapod, and have named it "Tiktaalik," the Nunavut word for a large, shallow-water fish. The fossil was collected during four summers of explorations on Ellesmere Island in Canada's Nunavut Territory. The people of Nunavut retain ownership of the fossil.

At the time Tiktaalik lived in the Late Devonian, 385-365 million years ago, the Canadian Arctic region was part of a landmass that straddled the equator and had a subtropical climate. The deposits that produced the Tiktaalik fossil were left by stream systems meandering across wide floodplains.

-NSF-

Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, email: cdybas@nsf.gov

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