The team found three near-complete, well-preserved
fossils of the new species, Tiktaalik roseae, in an area
of the Arctic called the Nunavut Territory. The largest measured
almost three metres (nine feet) in length. When the team got back
into the lab they removed the rock from the bone, and began to make
some really significant findings.
The creature shares some characteristics with a fish;
it has fins with webbing, and scales on its back. But it also has
many features in common with land animals, such as a flat,
crocodile-like head with eyes positioned on top and the beginnings
of a neck - something not seen in fish. When the team looked inside
the fin, they saw a shoulder, an elbow, and an early version of a
wrist, which was very similar to that of all animals that also walk
'Essentially,' said Professor Shubin, 'we have an
animal that is built to support itself on the ground.'
The scientists believed the position of the creature's
eyes suggested that it probably lived in shallow water. They stated that
they had captured a very significant transition at a key moment in time.
What was significant about the animal was that it was a fossil that
blurred the distinction between two forms of life - between an animal
that lived in water and an animal that lived on land.
Dr Andrew Milner, a palaeontologist from the Natural
History Museum, UK, said at the time that was unusual to find a fossil
like this in such good condition. He found the material to be amazing
because it included a nearly complete skeleton - which is always handy
because, instead of assembling the fossil from bits, it was possible
to see the whole skeleton and be sure that this is how the animal was
The scientists behind the fascinating find thought that the
creature lived in the shallows, marking the transition between
purely water-dwellers and land-dwellers