The search for Tiktaalik put our scientific theory to the test
Scientific theories are powerful because they allow us to make predictions about our world. We look at all the evidence we have gathered to date and predict what we might find if we do certain experiments. If the results of these experiments confirm our predictions, we know we have a solid theory. If not, we revise our theory and keep asking questions. That's what science is all about.
How did we know where to look for Tiktaalik?
As paleontologists, we can't go to a lab and use beakers and test tubes to gather evidence to test our theories. Instead, we look at the fossil evidence that exists today to make predictions about what we might find in the field tomorrow. Lucky for us, there is a bounty of evidence scattered all over the world, and more turns up every day. To find a transitional fossil between land animals and fish, we start by looking at the very first tetrapods to show up in the fossil record. Then, we look for fish which had a similar pattern of bones in their fins as the tetrapods had in their limbs.
STEP 1: We used the distribution of known fossils to determine where there was a gap in the fossil record