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Q:

What is the significance of your discovery?

A:

We are talking about a time period of about 380 to 360 million years ago, which we call the Devonian. And it is a very special time. It is known as the age of fish...(more)

 
 
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Q:

Where did you make this fossil discovery?

A:

The discovery of the new fossil came from the Canadian Arctic, up near the North Pole, about 600 miles south of the North Pole. It is an Arctic landscape...(more)

 
 
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Q:

What drew you to conduct research in this region?

A:

The story behind us beginning to work in the Arctic , or discovering this area to work on, is actually interesting. We discovered these areas looking through an undergraduate geology textbook...(more)

 
 
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Q:

What is your most significant discovery at this site?

A:

The most significant discovery at this site is a special kind of fish. It is a fish that blurs the distinction between a fish and a land-living animal...(more)

 
 
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Q:

Why is the Tiktaalik fish of particular importance?

A:

One of the special things about this fossil is that it has a fin, but inside the fin are many of our own arm bones: it has an upper arm bone, it has a lower arm bone, it has forearm bones, it has a wrist, it has finger-like things...(more)

 
 
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Q:

What does the name, Tiktaalik, mean?

A:

When you find a new fossil, one of the great joys is that you get to name it. What we did in this case was we submitted a request to a council of elders in Nunavut which was the Arctic territory we worked in...(more)

 
 
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Q:

What does the name, Tiktaalik, mean?

A:

One of the great joys of finding a new species is that that you get to name it. In this case, once we knew we had something new, we asked a council of elders in the Nunavut territory...(more)

 
 
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Q:

Were you hoping to find this type of fish, or was this an accidental discovery?

A:

Our team has been looking for this fish for past six years. We made four trips up to the Arctic to find this particular kind of fish...(more)

 
 
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Q:

How many complete fossil skeletons have you recovered?

A:

Well, there are lots of them up there, but we were only able to recover three full skeletons of the creatures. We can only work there, for weather reasons, for one month...(more)

 
 
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Q:

What are the unique physical characteristics of Tiktaalik?

A:

The unique anatomical structures in the new species, Tiktaalik, show us that you have some kind of fish that were evolving to live in shallow water. If you look at the geology of the area where we are finding these fossils, it clearly shows that this is a shallow freshwater stream...(more)

 
 
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Q:

What effect might this discovery have on our understanding of the evolutionary events that occurred during the vertebrate transition from water to land?

A:

One of the real take-home messages about this new discovery is that this transitional fossil is clearly a fish that shows very advanced characteristics of creatures that have evolved to walk on land...(more)

 
 
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Q:

What is the importance of your discovery?

A:

The important story here is really that this is a major branch of our own evolution. This is not just the evolution of some crazy group of fish. This is our ancient past. This is the evolution of our wrist, the origin of our neck, the origin of our ears...(more)

 
 
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Q:

Along with The University of Chicago, what other organizations were involved in this expedition?

A:

One thing about a discovery like this is that it depends on many people working together. There are at least three academic institutions involved: The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia , Harvard University...(more)

 
 
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Q:

How are your expeditions supported?

A:

You can imagine that working up in the Arctic is very expensive. It is arguably some of the most expensive paleontology you can do. So we have had to cobble together support from a variety of sources...(more)

 
 
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Q:

What is the importance of this discovery to other paleontologists?

A:

What this discovery does is that it gives us a new search image: a place, a time, a type of rock to look at that is highly likely to preserve more things like this. So what we can do, this summer for instance I am going to be returning in July...(more)

 
 
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Q:

Have there been other comparable discoveries of complete fossils demostrating the vertebrate transition from water to land?

A:

This discovery is unique in that it is fully intact; there are several specimens of a whole size range, a variation of arguably one of the most important creatures in the transition to land. There is nothing else like it...(more)

 
 
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Q:

How well preserved are your fossils?

A:

These things are so well preserved that we can see the texture of the scales, the textures of the bone on the head; we can see the relationship of bones to one another. These are things we do not often see in fossil discoveries...(more)

 
 
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Q:

How difficult is it working in the Arctic?

A:

Work up there actually present a bit of challenge because for each day we work up there in the field, I have to spend four days in Chicago planning for that. We have to pack the food; we have to freeze dry it. It has to be shipped up there in advance. Working up there has a lot of uncertainty...(more)

 
 
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Q:

What unique challenges do you face conducting an expedition in the Arctic?

A:

This place is unique in having a variety of challenges for the paleontologist, not the least of which are polar bears. Polar bears eat people. Most paleontologists don't like to be eaten...(more)

 
 
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Q:

Would you describe the unique physical characteristics of Tiktaalik?

A:

When we look at this creature what we see is a mosaic of fish features and those we find in land living animals. Let's look at the fish parts first. There are scales like a fish; you can see they look like chain mail here. There are even scales on the fin...(more)

 
 
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Q:

What physical characteristics of Tiktaalik are unique?

A:

Here are the scales. You can see how they attach to one another. Here is the fin. And these are the fin rays. Here is the flat head, with eyes on top. And here is the neck. What you have is a situation where the head is separate from the body, so it can move independently. (more)

 
 
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Q:

Would you show us the ribs?

A:

So when we look, here are the scales on the outside. And when we flip it over, look what we find. See these rods here? These rods are ribs, ribs that are unlike any other we see in fish. (more)

 
 
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Q:

What do Tiktaalik's anatomic al structures tell us about how it lived?

A:

When you take all these features together--from a fin with a shoulder, an elbow, and a wrist, to a neck, to ribs--what you have is an animal that can prop up and support itself in gravity. It has a very strong arm-like fin...(more)

 

 

 

 


   
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