Walking African fish reveals how our ancestors evolved

2014-08-28 11:53
 Polypterus senegalus. (Photo: Morin, Standen, Larsson)

Polypterus senegalus. (Photo: Morin, Standen, Larsson)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town – Scientific experiments on an African fish have shown what might have happened when the first fish ‘walked’ out of water, an evolutionary step that gave rise to today’s tetrapods – amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Researchers from the McGill University used a living fish, Polypterus, to examine the developmental changes associated with the transition to conditions on land.

Polypterus is an African fish that has the ability to breath air, ‘walk’ on land, and resembles the ancient fish that evolved into tetrapods.

The research team raised juvenile Polypterus on land for a year and observed the manner in which the ‘terrestrialised’ fish looked and moved differently.

“We wanted to use this mechanism to see what new anatomies and behaviours we could trigger in these fish and see if they match what we know of the fossil record,” says project leader Emily Standen.

According to the study, published in Nature, the fish showed significant changes in their behaviour and anatomy.

“Anatomically, their pectoral skeleton changed to become more elongate with stronger attachments across their chest, possibly to increase support during walking, and a reduced contact with the skull to potentially allow greater head/neck motion,” says study collaborator Trina Du.

Hans Larsson, Canada Research Chair in Macroevolution, says that because the anatomical changes mirror the findings in the fossil record, it can be hypothesized that the behavioural changes observed also reflect what may have occurred when fossil fish first walked with their fins on land.

“This is the first example we know of that demonstrates developmental plasticity may have facilitated a large-scale evolutionary transition,” Larsson added.

Read more on:    canada  |  research  |  animals

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.