Friday, April 07, 2006

Missing link fossil discovered. First animals to live on the land

Arctic fossils mark move to land
By Rebecca Morelle
BBC News science reporter


The fossil is remarkably well preserved (Image: Ted Daeschler)

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Fossil animals found in Arctic Canada provide a snapshot of fish evolving into land animals, scientists say.

The finds are giving researchers a fascinating insight into this key stage in the evolution of life on Earth.

US palaeontologists have published details of the fossil "missing links" in the prestigious journal Nature.

The 383 million-year-old specimens are described as crocodile-like animals with fins instead of limbs that probably lived in shallow water.

'Missing link'

Before these finds, palaeontologists knew that lobe-finned fishes evolved into land-living creatures during the Devonian Period.

But fossil records showed a gap between Panderichthys, a fish that lived about 385 million years ago which shows early signs of evolving land-friendly features, and Acanthostega, the earliest known tetrapod (four-limbed animals) dating from about 365 million years ago.

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