Ancient Fish Identified as the Earliest Evolutionary Proof of Fingers

Paleontologists succeeded in discovering the most ancient proof of fingers in the fin of a 380 million-years-old ancient fish. When and how this anatomical feature appeared in animals has been a mystery for quite some time.

The four-limbed creatures of the world have lots of things in common. From bilateral symmetry to spines. Also, most of us have (birds not anymore) five digits at each of our four limbs. The recent finding represents the first time that paleontologists had undeniably found fingers locked in a fin in any known fish. The articulating digits in the fin look like finger bones most animals have.

The change from aquatic fish to a four-limbed animal, known as tetrapod, is one of the most intriguing things in the evolutionary history. There are still many things unknown, unfortunately, in our knowledge. One of those missing things, however, has involved a fish that came from the depths and began foraging in swallower waters. Then, it would reach the land, crawling. How is such a thing possible?

The Earliest Evolutionary Proof of Fingers Was Found in an Ancient Fish

To finish that change, animals would have required something very significant for crawling, feet, and hands, and of course, digits. But, with the latest discovery, things appear more comprehensive. A species of lobe-finned fish dubbed Elpistostege watsoni on the ancestral class tat leads to tetrapods emerges.

E. watsoni was discovered in the Escuminac Formation of Miguasha in Quebec. Richard Cloutier from the University of Quebec and paleontologist John Long from University in Australia led the team who realized the recent study.

The examined the fossilized bones to find out what they can show us about that odd creature. The study is the first in a series, and it details how the team utilized CT scanning to identify the skeletal anatomy of the fin.

“Once we had compared our fin skeleton of Elpistostege with the arm and hand skeletons of terrestrial animals, it became clear that the rows of small digit bones were – in the evolutionary sense – the same as to phalange bones in the hands of land animals (like us),” explained Long.

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