13 December 2008
The music video at the beginning of this clip describes the fossil discovery that Dr. Neil Shubin is most famous for -- Tiktaalik. The video is from the 2008 Penn Reading Project at the University of Pennsylvania.
Tiktaalik is a transitional fossil illustrating the evolutionary development between lobe-finned fishes and tetrapods (four-legged animals like us who are really just a highly specialized form of lobe-finned fish).
Dr. Neil Shubin is a paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, popular science writer, and the author of Your Inner Fish: A Journey Into the 3.5 Billion-Year History of the Human Body.
This book is a fascinating read and it explains many of the oddities in human anatomy are due to our several million year transition from fish to land-dwelling warm-blooded tetrapod.
For example, the convoluted path that the vas deferens takes in the human body makes sense when one realizes that the path of the vas deferens made sense in our fishy ancestors (their testes were inside the abdominal cavity and not in an external scrotum that is now required in warm-blooded mammals for sperm production at slightly cooler than body temperature).
I'm guessing that museums gift shops would profit from selling Tiktaalik plush toys -- they certainly are very cute looking.
And here is a video clip describing how artists create 3-D reconstructions for museums based on fossil evidence and artistic guess-work from observing living creatures: