People who deny that evolution took place (and is still taking place) are a funny lot, ignoring or failing badly at trying to disprove it. Those Young Earthers are some of the worst of the lot, thinking that the Earth is only 6,000 years old … crazy. Anyhow, here’s another pebble to throw on the pre-existing mountain on evidence.
Fish developed features characteristic of land animals much earlier than once thought, researchers say.
Dr John Long of Museum Victoria and his colleagues base their conclusions on an uncrushed 380 million-year-old fish fossil found in Western Australia.
“The specimen is the most perfect complete three-dimensional fish of its kind ever discovered in the whole world,” says
Dr Long, who reports the team’s findings online today in the journal Nature.
“It looks like it died yesterday. You can still open and close the mouth.”
Dr Long says the preserved remains of a Gogonasus fish from the Devonian period were found last year in the remote Kimberley area at the Gogo fossil site, once an ‘ancient barrier reef’ teeming with fish.
He says previous analyses based on limited material suggested Gogonasus had relatively primitive features.
But when his team used a CT scanner at the Australian National University to analyse this new fossil, it found the fish had a number of features common to land animals.
“It’s hiding a lot of deceptively advanced features that were not recognised before until we had such a perfect specimen,” Dr Long said.
For example, Dr Long says Gogonasus had hole in its skull similar to that found in the first land animals.
He says this hole eventually became the eustachian tube in higher vertebrates.
Dr Long’s team’s analysis also revealed the fish’s pectoral fin had the same pattern of bones as the forelimbs or arms of land animals, called tetrapods.
“It’s definitely a fish. It’s got gills, it swims in water, it’s got fins,” Dr Long said. “But it’s a fish that is showing the beginnings of the tetrapod’s advanced body plan that would eventually carry on to all living land animals.”
Dr Long says Gogonasus also had a cheek bone structure similar to early amphibian and a single pair of nostrils, like humans.
Wolf in sheep’s clothing
Earlier this year scientists reported the discovery of Tiktaalik roseae, a 375 million-year-old species of fish that filled the evolutionary gap in the transition between water and land animals.
While Tiktaalik had a skull that was identical to an amphibian, Dr Long says Gogonasus looks much more like a fish.
“This particular fish is a bit like a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” he said.
In fact, Dr Long says Gogonasus is more closely related to land animals than a fish called Eusthenopteron, which until recently was considered the common ancestor of all land animals.
“It’s replaced Eusthenopteron as the best fish to use when studying the ancestry of the first tetrapods,” Dr Long said.
Dr Long says there are still many unsolved questions about the evolution of land animals, such as how fin rays evolved into digits.
And he says such questions will only be solved with the discovery of more fossils in combination with embryology and other evolutionary development work.
Dr Long named Gogonasus, meaning ‘snout from Gogo’, in 1985 when he discovered a snout of the same species, also at the Gogo fossil site.