Even as the evolution wars rage, on school boards and in courtrooms, biologists continue to accumulate empirical data supporting Darwinian theory. Two extraordinary discoveries announced this week should go a long way to providing even more of the evidence that critics of evolution say is lacking. One study produced what biblical literalists have been demanding ever since Darwin — the iconic ‘missing links.’ If species evolve, they ask, with one segueing into another, where are the transition fossils, those man-ape or reptile-mammal creatures that evolution posits? In yesterday’s issue of Nature, paleontologists unveiled an answer: well-preserved fossils of a previously unknown fish that was on its way to evolving into a four-limbed land-dweller. It had a jaw, fins and scales like a fish, but a skull, neck, ribs and pectoral fin like the earliest limbed animals, called tetrapods. Discovered in 2004 on Canada’s Ellesmere Island by Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago and Ted Daeschler of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, the 375-million-year-old Tiktaalik roseae ‘blurs the boundary between fish and land animals,’ said Prof. Shubin. It ‘is both fish and tetrapod,’ showing how life made the transition to land, evolving four limbs from […]

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