A fossil of a fish with “legs,” that anthropologists think represents the missing link in the evolution of sea creatures into land animals, has recently been discovered in Ethiopia. At the same time, biologists have learned that one type of fish?the catfish?STILL “walks” ashore to look for food.
Discovering that a catfish that lives in Africa regularly goes onto land to hunt for prey helps scientists imagine how those early fish, now seen only in fossils, gradually made the trip to dry land and eventually decided to stay there.
The African catfish goes on shore by building up speed while swimming in the water, then launching themselves onto the land, where they slither like snakes. They have a special organ for breathing air as well as gills so that they can breathe when they’re in the water.
Interestingly, biologists think that whales and dolphins, mammals that live in water but breathe air, RETURNED to the water from the land millions of years ago.
Discovery of this fossil helps scientists imagine how ancient fish made their first hunting trips ashore prior to evolving into land creatures. Critics of evolution used to say that the problem with the theory was that no one had found the “missing links,” but now, according to anthropologist Tim White, “Many of the links are no longer missing.”
Art credit: http://www.freeimages.co.uk
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