Very Old Fish Fossil Shows Evolutionary Origin of the Human Hand

Very Old Fish Fossil Shows Evolutionary Origin of the Human Hand
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While most people think about humans fully evolving from apes when it comes to evolution, a new study shows that things had unfolded a bit differently. While Charles Darwin managed to deeply piss off a lot of religious leaders back in the 19th century when he brought the ‘On the Origin of Species’ to the public, nowadays evolution is widely accepted among scientists.

A team of paleontologists from Flinders University in Australia and Universite du Quebec a Rimouski in Canada have revealed the ancient Elpistostege fish fossil. Elpistostege is an extinct type of tetrapod-like vertebrate that lived long go in the Late Devonian period.

Evolution into tetrapods is a major event in history

By using high energy CT-scans, the skeleton of the pectoral fin shows structures very familiar to us: an arm, forearm, wrist, and phalanges organized in digits (fingers). Professor in Palaeontology John Long declared:

“Today we announce in the journal Nature our discovery of a complete specimen of a tetrapod-like fish, called Elpistostege, which reveals extraordinary new information about the evolution of the vertebrate hand,”

“This is the first time that we have unequivocally discovered fingers locked in a fin with fin-rays in any known fish. The articulating digits in the fin are like the finger bones found in the hands of most animals.”

“This finding pushes back the origin of digits in vertebrates to the fish level, and tells us that the patterning for the vertebrate hand was first developed deep in evolution, just before fishes left the water.”

The evolution of fishes into tetrapods was among the most significant events in history since they are four-legged vertebrates of which humans belong.  Now, scientists believe that fossils informing the fish-to-tetrapod transition have helped us to better understand transformations associated with breathing, hearing, and feeding.

The new findings were published in the journal Nature.


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